Author Archives: downwarden

About downwarden

Nicholas Grabowsky’s novels of horror/fantasy and mainstream pulp fiction, both as himself, as Nicholas Randers, and as Marsena Shane, have generated worldwide acclaim for over two decades and praised by many of today’s most popular horror gurus in the literary world. He began his career in traditional publishing houses with brisk sellers in mass market paperback horror and romance, and the last ten years have seen him hailed by many as a mentor and advocate to the smaller presses, which has become to him a passion. His body of work includes the award-winning macabre aliens-among-us epic The Everborn, The Rag Man, Pray Serpent’s Prey, Halloween IV (and its special edition), Diverse Tales, Reads & Reviews, The Wicked Haze, Sweet Dreams Lady Moon, June Park, and Red Wet Dirt, numerous anthologies, magazine articles, and self help books, with projects extending to screenplays, poetry, songs, film, comics and graphic novels, and a wide variety of short fiction and nonfiction since the 1980’s. He’s a veteran special guest at numerous genre conventions and makes appearances and signings across North America. He has been in the limelight a radical gospel preacher right out of high school and in the following years a rock vocalist, teacher, lecturer and activist, editor, publisher and founder of the Sacramento-based Diverse Media small press, which has recently blossomed into the subdivisions of Black Bed Sheet Books, which publishes “exemplary literature, fiction & non” but specializes in horror/fantasy, and Black Bed Sheet Productions, which produces independent film, and sponsors both the hit Blog Talk Radio show Francy & Friends and the popular web stream Black Hamster TV. Currently, Nicholas is at work with numerous anthologies, graphic novels and comic books, an Everborn sequel and the novels The Downwardens and The Sirens of Knowland. His independent film projects include the upcoming slasher creature feature Cutting Edges, as well as co-writing the independent film Into the Basement, for Triad Pictures.

Horror Writer/Publisher is HOMOPHOBIC?

Horror Writer/Publisher is HOMOPHOBIC?

Nicholas Grabowsky

     I wrote the novelization of Halloween IV in 1988, with one book before and many after. Between then and now my work has never been the subject of controversy. And I know by rule of thumb that you take criticism as it goes….ignore the haters and pay attention in varying degrees to the honest ones that simply just don’t like your stuff. I recently received an email from a Kindle/CreateSpace rep who noticed the Ultimate Edition of my Halloween IV novel has been selling and that they urge me to put it on Kindle, want to know why I haven’t yet, and offer free services to format it and place it on Kindle themselves. I’ve got more important things going on, but I thought I’d hop on over to Amazon and see how it’s doing myself, and I realized while doing so there were new reviews on this specific edition (before that there was the “Special Limited,” then the 1988 paperback edition). Normally, I’m indifferent to Amazon reviews in general. Just like most people. I wish every book I’d writt en or published had a constant five stars attached to it, and for that matter were NY Times bestsellers. Of course.
I cast my gaze down on the usual: some people like it and some don’t, a couple people said it was hard to read because there were typos, and I took the text from the last edition where I eliminated the few I knew about and before then nobody said anything about typos, and for any author that can raise an eyebrow to look into the matter deeper, but then I was totally distracted by a review that I never encountered before and made me feel like it was from Fox News. Here’s a hefty excerpt:
    “….super excited because I loved Halloween IV. Then while reading it I found a homophobic passage in the scene where Dr. Loomis is trying to hitchhike after the explosion after the gas station. In this written scene, Loomis is actually, in his mind, afraid that he might be raped by some random men. According to “Halloween IV,” “He [Loomis] could cast aside his fear of being picked up by a gay rapist or a drug dealer ex-con” (Grabowsky 70). What? I have researched a little about Grabowsky and he514TKAab0dL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ seems a little maniacal and fanatical in his politics. It was in poor taste and really disappointing for such a huge fan of the series. …. it clearly demonstrates what a small minded person would think of in terms of the gay and lesbian community; that they are all just sexual predators. Even though it has been determined time and again that sexual predators are not gay or lesbian individuals, but people that were abused themselves and always identify as straight. It is about power not sex. Hate is learned and taught. It is irresponsible for this kind of literature that is aimed at teenaged young men to demonstrate instances of prejudice from a heroic character that will only ultimately continue the cycle of hate…………”
If I was stranded in the middle of nowhere and had to stick out my thumb for a ride down a desolate highway, among my many fears just like anyone else, as a male or as anyone, would be if I got picked up by the wrong person who would do me harm. Among the many possibilities: a gay rapist. If I was a female, I’d just say “rapist” and you’d get what I mean….. I bet you’d picture in your mind a male rapist, because I was a female. Dr. Loomis was a male, so, while the possibility for being picked up by a vile lesbian with intentions to hack him up after exploiting his body for sexual pleasure existed if you thought about the possibilities over and over until you were blue, the general feeling for a guy in that circumstance, I imagine, would be to get picked up by someone of the same sex who happened to like men and wanted to rape him. Hence, gay rapist. He would have to be gay, and he would be a rapist.
So why did this offend? I myself, whilst finding myself, had a couple of encounters way years back that were blatantly gay, for mine has been a crazy life of finding myself, at least early on, like everyone should, without the media or peer pressure telling you how to act or what to be. I was even thrown out of a bar by a bunch of rednecks who had a problem with the dress I was wearing (I came from a cross-dressing party with a bunch of guys dressed as me and suddenly our lives were threatened because the bikers there couldn’t deal with it). And heck, how many of you big successful writers out there have to now and again find yourself defending what you wrote with words in retaliation like: “that’s not what I meant!”
So now, here’s the thing the reviewer seems to cry out: Grabowsky is homophobic because he wrote that Dr. Loomis was a man who was afraid he’d get picked up by a rapist that likes men.

Homophobe in drag?

Grabowsky at ’90’s drag party.

     My feeling: In this day & age, and it seems to be getting worse, people take more and more offense because we’re all saturated with the principles the media dictates to us. Gay rights and racism and political agendas and popular culture and the trends of what the media tells how our culture should think and feel, permeate our lives into developing opinions we would never otherwise have if a big deal was never made about them in the first place. Yes, in cases, some of these issues are a matter of history, issues we must deal with to evolve and become better than what we used to be with each generation which passes, and although I yearn to see a day where man first sets foot on Mars and discovers great things, things substantial which can define our human race, I likewise yearn for the day where if a white man who happens to be a cop shoots down a black man, he gets punished for it to the full extent without it being a reason for anybody to riot and vandalize and destroy their own city. I wish for a world where people attracted to the opposite sex are okay and no longer a big homophobe batboydeal, and that they’re not plagued by people interfering with their rights as human beings. I also wish that all of this was no big deal. I wish that people weren’t so easily offended, and that the mention of gay or race was taken and meant by all no more than stereotypical Pollock jokes are to Pollocks like me who’ve had to deal with them all my life. In my perfect world, we should all be who we are and be able to live with each other, and make fun, without insult, and take care of more serious matters than how we feel each other should act….especially when who we are is nobody’s business.

     Now that I have that out of the way, what say you, dear reader, about the “maniacal” and “fanatical” part? Because that’s what I’m really concerned with.  Because I think that being called both or either, especially at the same time, is a most profound compliment.  I mean, I write horror for a living!

     Follow this link to read the entire Amazon review: http://www.amazon.com/gp/review/R2SSMJAFRZB45O/ref=cm_cr_pr_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1494721724

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Mold Was the Case That They Gave Me

Mold Was the Case That They Gave ME

(Originally published on Facebook August 14, 2014 at 6:44pm but wanted to add it to this WordPress blog)

I’m just recovering from a month-long plight with mold in my son’s room, and the following letter is to the management of our apartment complex to get compensation for damages.  Wish us luck!

Management                                                                                                                                             08/14/2014

Arbor Ridge Apartments

4407 Oakhollow Dr,

Sacramento, CA 95842

Dear Management of Arbor Ridge,

This letter represents a formal request for compensation in the form of leniency from our current amount due for rent or a reasonable negotiable amount, in respect to the mold situation of 4407 Oakhollow Drive, Apt. 87.  We believe that it is the responsibility of the landlord to maintain a standard livability in their tenants’ dwellings and not to expect the tenant to rely on renter’s insurance or the tenant’s own expenses and resources to rectify problems that arise due to the fault or negligence of the property owner.   We believe that this can be resolved easily between us and the Arbor Ridge management/Lynd and Property Solutions International, Inc., without persuasion or litigation, because we like it here and have always been on good terms with the office staff and management and wish to continue our relationship, and because it’s the proper and moral thing to do.

Here is a rundown of facts regarding the situation:

-The problem first arose in the latter part of 2012, when we reported coffee-colored, salad bowl-sized stains on the ceiling of my son’s bedroom (the second bedroom) and the maintenance of the complex dismissed it upon inspection as not to be a problem, therefore we thought it wasn’t a problem.

Before the moldBefore the mold

-On July 19th, while I was recuperating from a hospital adventure after my appendix burst, I happened to look up at the ceiling and see about a dozen spots of greenish/black mold, and we immediately telephoned the apartment maintenance and placed an emergency request. The problem description of that order, created by Daneeka Rodney, was “There is mildews in the second bedroom ceiling and there is more spots coming…”  And we were advised that maintenance would be there first thing Monday.  Over the course of the weekend, our internet research about mold and particularly mold in rental dwellings, combined with Facebook friend feedback concerning the subject, made us panic about what to do.

Mold!Mold!

-On Monday, maintenance never came. We spoke to the office, and they stated they were low on maintenance personnel, and someone would look at it tomorrow.  That night, I decided to clear the wall area below it where I hung packaged collectible action figures, and when I removed them, I discovered mold build-up coming out of the paint behind each one and attached to the backsides of the packages.  I removed everything from the walls on that side of the room and placed them outside in the patio.  We panicked over that, and once again we returned to the internet and began to contact lawyers for fear of what we were seeing and what we were being told.

-On Tuesday, July 22, maintenance never came.  Later that morning, we opened the closet door of the room and found to our shock that half of the closet ceiling had collapsed, showering half of the closet contents with water and water-soaked broken drywall and wood covered in deep black and grey mold spots.  My son’s toys occupied the opposite half of the closet and only a small amount was damaged; however, I run a book publishing business from the apartment and store all of my convention materials in that closet, and half of everything was ruined—items I make a living off of,sign and sell, posters, banners, signage, banner stands, boxes of promotional materials, all soaking wet with water and mold. Right away, we both went to the office to report that the mold situation was much worse.  The office assistant we spoke to said to us “It’s got to be mildew. We don’t get mold” and told us maintenance would get to it right away after their other priorities.  We asked if someone would come in to test whether it was mold, and the person explained that they don’t have people who do that. We began to move things out of the room in an effort to save them.

-On Wed, July 23, I received an email from maintenance stating that our maintenance case was closed! But then a group of 3 or 4 maintenance workers came.  They explained to us how they didn’t see why this had been overlooked for so long, and that the mold and deterioration had to have been present and building up long before I noticed it.  They instructed us to vacate the room of everything in it we wanted to keep, take photos of everything damaged, and to try and stay out of the room while they figure out how they were going to handle the situation.  For the rest of the day, we filled our livingroom and master bedroom with everything salvageable, our patio with damaged belongings we tried to save, and the area outside our front door with moldy furniture and piles of what we could not salvage.  For just under the next four weeks, our apartment was overwhelmed with furniture and boxes and everything else that was in that room, which made it difficult to function and get around.

Mold!Mold!

-The next day, maintenance stopped by to collect the fallen ceiling pieces into a plastic bag, and I retained a few sample in plastic bags.  During this, a management team had arrived,not for us, but for a violent dispute between the tenants next door.  They decided while they were there to inspect what we were talking about regarding the mold, and did so.  I don’t believe they would have ever personally inspected it had they not been next door in happenstance.    I would think any mention of mold would send any landlord running to inspect the situation for themselves at the start.

-Throughout the course of the next couple of days, after we requested to review any option of relocation to another apartment, the office offered what they said was the only similar apartment available.  We turned it down because it was smaller and located in a rundown part of the complex with graffiti on the property and railroad tracks nearby.  I appealed to the manager that it was within everyone’s interests to hire a certified tester for the mold, and she explained that they don’t normally do that and said that any renter’s insurance I may have should cover the situation.  But I don’t have renter’s insurance.

During this, we telephoned my 9-year-old’s mother about the situation,because he was supposed to spend the weekend and he had no room.  She informed me that my son went through vomiting spells every time he’d come home from staying with me, and we started fearing that the mold in his room could be the reason.  This speculation made us panic even more, and added to our frustrations. For four weeks until the room was declared safe I couldn’t have him visit me.

Mold!Mold!

Right after that, I received a Pay or Quit notice for back rent due,and we went to the office to inquire about it, hoping that especially in light of the situation they’d be able accommodate us. I found myself in a confrontation with the regional manager who explained that they had tended to the matter with due diligence, and that she didn’t appreciate my threats.  I had said that I’d involve the news if this wasn’t taken care of, but in actuality the local television show Good Day Sacramento was supposed to have a crew over at the apartment during that time period to so a segment with myself and my publishing company  on their show.  We were already on their show a few weeks prior for a different segment.  By that time, the circumstances were making me upset and I had a good mind to do the segment anyway, and get the moldy apartment to be a part of the story in spite of it.  As of the date of this letter,the segment’s on indefinite hold.

They then did hire a certified independent tester.  Rather than test it, he told us upon inspecting it that it was indeed mold and he didn’t need testing to tell him that.  During the few weeks that he was there off and on, he would set up humidifiers and cover the room and door with plastic sheeting, and for the greater part of that time we were not allowed inside, and the stale smell infiltrated the whole apartment.  They then did a test when they thought the room was clear of mold, which was inconclusive, so they had to do it all over again. During this stretch of time, the maintenance workers have been thoroughly courteous, as was the certified tester, and in conversation all agree that this has certainly been an ordeal for us and that the complex would be right to cut us a break for it.

As of the date of this letter, the room has been at last declared free of mold, and maintenance is 99% complete with a restoration of the ceiling and the inside of the closet.  One final paint job and they’re through.

At the beginning of all of this when I first noticed the mold, I had no idea what was in store.  Between the office at first seeming that they didn’t take this seriously, to those from which we sought advice taking the situation way too seriously, it was a nightmare just trying to figure out what to do. Neighbors above and next to us started complaining about their own mold and talking lawsuits, which I had first believed and figured this issue was even larger than it was, until I realized they were just making up reasons to jump on board and sue somebody.   At the tail end of this I find myself with a better education concerning mold, loss of important business and business supplies and a timely TV show segment which impeded certain abilities to help pay rent (because that’s my only source of income), having to live just under a month minus a room and the rest of the apartment looking like a storage garage,and I missed my son.

I realize this comes at a time where we owe rent, and we received our three day notice three days ago as of this letter’s date.  We have been paying rent as we can since Francy lost her job in March and gained a part time job thereafter, and struggling to do so to this day.  Our last payment was $699 about two weeks before this ordeal started.   If we were free and clear from this debt on our own and currently in good financial standing with you, and yet have still gone through this ordeal without a break from our rent or some reasonable compensation, this letter and our request would still exist;  the clear fact that we are behind on our rent and that any break you can give us decreases our debt is circumstantial, but we’re hoping that would work for both of us.  We’ve been good tenants, active in the community of this complex for events and holidays, Francy is working out a direct deal between her pizza store and your office, and we genuinely like your staff and living here.

We’re not implying that our debt be fully erased.   We don’t mean to accuse or make the situation seem larger than it was.  The assistant we spoke to probably was right, that you don’t get mold, and this situation was as new for you as it was for us. All we’re asking for is a break, and for your understanding.

Thank you sincerely,

Nicholas Grabowsky                                                    Francy Weatherman

(tenant)                                                                           (tenant)


Nicholas Grabowsky: The Norman Rockwell of White Trash

Nicholas Grabowsky: The Norman Rockwell of White Trash

Nicholas Grabowsky:The Norman Rockwell of White Trash

 

Red Wet Dirt reviewed by Tales of the Talisman Magazine

 

 

Red Wet Drt

Nicholas Grabowsky

Published by Black Bed Sheet Books

ISBN 978-0982253007

392 Pages

$16.95

 

If you like Joe R. Lansdale, best known as the author of Bubba Ho-Tep and writing arguably, the strangest horror stories.on the market today, you’ll love Nicholas Grabowsky. Grabowsky is known to diehard fans of the Halloween film franchise for

writing the novel adaptation of Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. In his anthology,Red Wet Dirt, we get a better sense of his style and imagination. You’re in for a ride.

Red Wet Dirt has nearly every writing format:

novellas, short stories, poems, random thoughts, experimental fiction, and a screenplay. Grabowsky sometimes overdoes it with run-on sentences and many of his narrative scenes would have been more intriguing if they were allowed to play out with dialogue and further descriptions. These critiques, however, don’t outweigh his palpable passion and unpredictability.

You’ll never experience Christmas the same way again after reading his short story, “Yuletide Thing,” which involves sunbathing next to a beating heart. In another short story, “Freeway Reaper,” Grabowsky gives us an excellent theory as to why we have all been stuck in. traffic only to see no source for the delay. The novella, “Father’s Keeper,” exemplifies Grabowsky’s talents as he is able to effortlessly insert history without drowning out the actual story. In it, a ghost from an ancient civilization tells his tale through a psychic medium about the collapse of his society due to an undead plague-carrier and an overconfident king. His third short story, “Looks Like a Rat to Me,” is the strongest of his anthology. Its creepiness makes Stephen King’s “Graveyard Shift” look like the mice inCinderella. The screenplay, “Cutting Edges,” has a villain I promise you won’t see coming.

Grabowsky’s finest aptitude is his ability to set the scene around him. He not only gives you a visual, but also audio, smell, and temperature. He also creates characters who are appalling, but oddly appealing at the same time. He is the Norman Rockwell of white trash.

 

— Dan Graffeo

From TALES OF THE TALISMAN Volume 4, Issue 2

 

Note: TALES OF THE TALISMAN MAGAZINE is still going strong with innovative and exciting content -horror fiction & poetry and original articles…..so check them out, subscribe and LIKE their FB page!

 

https://www.facebook.com/TalesOfTheTalisman

 

Comic/graphic novel/film adaptations inspired by RED WET DIRT:

 

The Father KeeperThe Yuletide ThingCutting Edges – feature filmCutting Edges -full graphic novel

 

Let RED WET DIRT inspire and horrify YOU!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Download a free PDF sample here:http://www.downwarden.com/Red%20Wet%20Dirt%20Sample.pdf 

 

Hear an MP3 of the author reading the PDF sample here:  http://www.downwarden.com/Red%20Wet%20Dirt%20Reading.mp3

 

Buy it at the special publisher’s price here: http://downwarden.com/blackbedsheetstore/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=70&products_id=186


Lost on Bourbon Street

Lost on Bourbon Street

June 19, 2013 at 6:30pm   Public Friends Only Me Custom Close Friends Horror Types 2 See all lists… Horror Types 1 Black Bed Sheet Books Self Sacramento, California Area Family Go Back

LOST ON BOURBON STREET

 By Nicholas Grabowsky

 

 

 

I wasn’t supposed to attend the 2013 World Horror Convention in New Orleans.

 

I came out of the one of the year prior in Salt Lake City all amped up and inspired and ready to go to the next one, but as time went by I just couldn’t afford going, not at all, and there was too much for me to do right here at home where I run and operate Black Bed Sheet Books.  A few of my authors were going to attend, and I was going to exploit that as much as I could with their help.  And then, three to four weeks prior to the con, I receive correspondence from author Sue Dent saying she was thinking of going.  She only lives two hours away in Mississippi and she could drive there.  Flashback to WHC Toronto, Canada, a handful of years prior and before BBS:   I invited Sue along with other authors as my guests for my appearance there, and paid for their tables.  This time around, Sue wanted to return the favor, and if you ask her she’ll say with enthusiasm that she would naturally ask me anyway because my presence at her table validates her as a writer.  Awe shucks, Sue.  You’re a great writer all on your own, anybody can tell you that.  

 

The way it worked out (and rendered me incapable of saying ‘no’ to her invite regardless of my financial state) was she’d  use her Delta miles on my round trip, pay for our table in Black Bed Sheet’s name, and rather than pay for a hotel room we can both stay at book reviewer/author Char Hardin’s house, who lived locally and about a half hour away.   Within days all that was set in stone, and suddenly I had a thousand and one other things to do on top of what I had before I was going.  But that was okay, and I was excited.  I made great plans.  I ordered books, created a special banner (that Sue elected to pay for), largely focusing on our new Vincent Price book and recent releases, and on who would be at our table throughout the con such as authors Rey Otis, Shannon Lee, possibly SC Hayden and Sean M. Davis, Sue, Loren Rhodes who has a new book, and Char herself selling choice books from her local book store.  I created an hours-long video of cool BBS content to be playing continuously on our monitor, and special flyers.  I planned a live special edition of our Blog Talk radio show Francy & Friends where I’d be passing along my phone to a wide array of acclaimed horror fiction writers after the Bram Stoker Awards ceremonies (a smart phone my dad surprised me with as a gift so I could have the ability to accept credit cards at our table there and bring home more sales).   It was going to be a wonderful, thrilling and prosperous time….I mean, you’d think it would be……and I envisioned myself coming home as triumphant as Captain America approaching Tommy Lee Jones with all the soldiers he just saved following him from behind and Alan Silvestri’s music blaring around me like in the movie.  Well kind of, at least.

 

My experience began exactly as it started, with a phone call from Sue Dent, around 8pm the evening before my 6am Thursday flight.  A few months prior, half of Sue’s house burnt down.  By this time, the reconstruction was far enough along that packages and mail could once again be delivered there.  So because Sue was driving, we thought it was a good idea to direct all shipments of books and hand-outs for the convention, including the banner, to her place and she would drive everything with her.  Nothing arrived.  UPS had assessed the house was vacant and all packages including lots of books I ordered and the Vincent price books, and Alex Beresford’s CHARLA book/movie poster package,  were reverted back “return to sender” just like the Elvis song.  To further emphasize impending doom, as soon as I got off the phone one of our three cats, Rocky, piddled all over my stack of clothes rising from my open suitcase, and my laptop carry bag.  Bad Rocky.  The only cat left to get his nuts cut.  And I was going to dress more colorfully this time.  Later, on airplanes, I could smell the cat pee from the laptop bag I had with me and I could swear people could smell it, too, and thought it was me.

 

The next morning, I was given special treatment by airport security because I went through the spacepod thingy where you raise your hands and they scan you because I failed to empty my pockets, and because I had my belt off and been losing weight lately my pants fell to just above my knees and I wasn’t wearing underwear.  It went by so quickly and I was so embarrassed I only paid attention to whoever officer gave me instruction and I don’t even know if anyone else was even paying attention, and I had a long t-shirt.  I felt like Mister Bean for five minutes.  It wasn’t anything compared to how, next, the airport lost my carry-on bag which held an exterior hard drive containing all my publishing company’s files and invaluable information I was determined to keep with me.  It was a drive the size of a brick and it wouldn’t fit in my laptop bag.  It also held the remainder of the clothes Rocky hadn’t peed on and the CDs onto which I was going to copy ebooks and give away.  But they took it at the gate because there was no more overhead room and assigned it a ticket, and when we arrived at our stopover in LAX I was instructed to retrieve it at baggage claim with my suitcase when I arrived in New Orleans.  Wrong wrong wrong!  In New Orleans, it wasn’t there!  And when I asked and presented my ticket, they located my bag still sitting in LAX.  I gave them Char’s address where I’d be staying at for them to forward it there.  A bit of good news when Sue & Char picked me up:  Sue had gone by her local UPS and they had the banner and Alex’s package.  No books I ordered, though.  At least not yet….

 

We went straight to the convention in the French Quarter and made it there just fine, set ourselves up in the dealer’s room, and the front of our table was facing a wall, probably no more than four feet between the wall and the front of our table.  We made use of that wall though, and duct-taped banners and posters all over it with no objection from the hotel staff, and double-sided our six-foot wide banner stand so people could see who we were from behind.  We also got away with three registrations and badges when Sue had paid for two, and it seemed the hotel was ripping dealers off by charging carrying their boxed merchandise from the car garage to the dealer’s room at five bucks a box and they never approached us about it.  Authors Sean M. Davis and Shannon Lee met up with us, I was meeting more and more friends and authors I knew, I’d snuck in a little rum from the liquor store and together with things were starting to look pretty okay until Sue told me the arrangement regarding my stay at Char’s house fell through because Char lived with her dad and her dad didn’t want a man spending the night.

 

Then Francy called, and things were suddenly going wrong at home.  She’d invited friends over I didn’t care much for who’ve made a mess of the place in recent times and who I didn’t trust around my office equipment for a night of drinking and one of them was spending the night in the bed my son uses when he stays there, and somehow in the commotion the cat we rescued from a meth house two years ago and with whom I’d bonded with extremely, Smokey, had darted outside and was spooked away.

 

Filled with worry and with no money for a place to stay myself, I was at Sue’s mercy.  So we drove two hours away to Sue’s house in Mississippi.  It seemed worth the drive anyway, just on the chance my box of BBS/Price of Fear books miraculously showed up at the UPS office near there.   My printer had said they’d made arrangements with UPS and diverted the package’s return just in time.  So I spent the night in Mississippi, and the next day we went down to UPS only to find out the printer lied, they never spoke to UPS, and none of the precious stock of books I was hoping to sell would arrive at all.  To top it all off, I’d gotten word that Smokey hadn’t returned home and he was nowhere to be found.  With very little for me to sell and my head held low, I returned with Sue after a two hour drive back to Char’s to pick her up, then to the con.  By then it was already after three pm Friday, and half of the day had already gone by.  Rey Otis had already been at our table, dropped her books off.  Shannon Lee had been manning it off and on, God bless her, yet not knowing at which price to sell what, and a few people were interested in books I managed to bring along anyway in my suitcase.   Because the contents of my lost bag carried what was to be shown on our monitor, we had nothing to show, and I had no ebooks to give away, no flyers to print out once I got there.

 

By the time seven hit, the dealer’s room was closing to the public.  I’d already had a handful of drinks at the bar down below, both from a little mad cash I’d brought and friends I ran into, and between that, a new pint of rum from the liquor store down the street, and the tequila samples the table next to us was handing out, I was feeling excited and social and in my own element, and ready to party and network.  Sue then had to leave with Char for the night.  It was much too early and I was just getting started, so I opted to stay, of course, and Sue told me to call her when I was ready to be picked up and she’ll have somewhere figured out to take me to.

 

My best time there was that evening.  I attended awesome parties and the mass author signing, met up with great friends, was introduced to a few new ones.  I looked all over for Rey Otis and Loren Rhodes, still couldn’t find them, but it seemed I’d found everyone else, and I went from one party to another to the bar downstairs where a jazz band was playing, to another party where they had a rock band, switched from rum to vodka and found myself happening upon a balcony where I enjoyed the street musicians and the ambulances below on the crowded narrow one-way streets where the pedestrians were kings and the cars just had to deal with them.  Got another message from Francy:  still no Smokey.  By then she had the whole apartment complex looking for him.

At one point, smoking a cigarette outside the hotel’s front entrance with a group of us, several author friends were announcing that they were headed off to “The Dungeon” off of Bourbon Street and invited me to tag along.   This was probably before midnight.   So I did.  It was time to see Bourbon Street anyway, a must and a scratch off my bucket list, I admit, and it was a long time comin’.  It was packed with people and sights and sounds and for some reason I’d expected the town to not be as lively with no Mari Gras around.  But what did I know?  The street seemed endless before and behind me, a river of bedlam and wandering drunken people flowing in and out of bar entrances and souvenir shops like mice darting in and out of holes in walls.  Everywhere I went, it smelled like a sewer, and every tourist bar claimed to serve the world’s strongest drink.  There were cops on horseback and prostitutes blatantly hitting me up while the cops were more into the people petting their horses, ambulances would often part the crowd and fights around me would erupt and then vanish, groups of people were dancing in the streets and men in suits would try to entice me inside the Hustler  and other gentlemen’s clubs by calling me over and me responding “Who, me?”  Fortune tellers and musicians filled otherwise vacant storefronts, and the air was filled with Blues, Country, Rap and Rock n’ Roll, police sirens, laughter and vomiting.  My eyes were wide and my jaw in constant dropping mode in awe of the whole spectacle, and for awhile I was truly glad to be there to soak the experience in.  I followed my way to The Dungeon and hung out for awhile inside.   It really did look like a dungeon from some sort of dark Disneyland ride, and I wanted to live there.  It was a deep multi-floored labyrinth of rock and stairways with tiny bar rooms and dance floors the size of my kitchen, and if you were overweight you certainly couldn’t get inside because the hallway entrance was only narrow enough for two thin people to pass each other.

 

Sometime between twelve and one, I decided I’d best call Sue and call it a night.  But she wasn’t answering.  Jump to 4:30 am.  Sue had finally answered;  her phone had been out of range the whole time, and she had happened to wake up and check her messages.  The last few hours had turned into a nightmare.    I had no idea where or if I was going to sleep before the convention opened up again in the morning.   I had about fifty bucks to my name, and everything I had was locked up in the dealer’s room.  The few people from the con I ran into during those hours, I was exhausted and asked if they knew of a place to crash, and they’d either direct me to a café or advise me to just stay up and party.  And damn, it was hot.  And humid.  I was pouring sweat and I hadn’t changed clothes since Wednesday.  I spent a lot of time sitting on the pavement in front of the hotel, and made friends with a frog and a drunk lady who fell over my feet and after I helped her up wanted to sleep with me.  I told her I didn’t think I’d be sleeping any time soon.   When wandering around a bit more, a guy came out of a bar and thought I was his friend from high school, and I went along with it and when he asked me where I’d been working I told him I was working in a noose factory and I just came out of rehab because my daughter beat a man to death with her bicycle and was sentenced to hang by one of the very same nooses I made with my own hands, and when she was dead the wife and I divorced and I’d come back to live in the swamps.  He believed me and had a difficult time taking all that information in.

 

When Sue and Char at last arrived to pluck me from this endless, penniless, brainless, woe-stricken wandering, they’d already figured out where they were going to put me so I could get some shut-eye:  Char’s used book shop.  They dropped me off, locked me inside, and told me should customers ring the doorbell in the morning to not move a muscle or make a sound, lest I scare them, and to keep the lights off or the police will investigate because they know nobody’s supposed to be there, and if I should go number two in the john to not flush the paper towels but to place them in a bag.  Well, alone in a part of the country I’d never before visited and in a situation I’d never before been in, I made the best of it, helped myself to the water in the fridge (I’d only eaten a sausage egg Burger King muffin since Friday morning), I decided to scratch one thing off of my bucket list.  You’d think sleeping in a book store would be the kind of thing that would be on a writer’s bucket list?  Well…..walking around naked in a book store was more along the lines of truth, and for five minutes I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity.   It was a quick five minutes, just to be able to say I did like the one time I streaked through a cemetery on a dare in front of a bunch of friends….some story that would make if someone saw me through the window and called the cops!

 

The next morning, Saturday, the busiest day of the con, I woke on the floor behind the register and spoke to Francy on my phone….. Smokey remained lost, and this time she had our apartment complex office and maintenance looking for him.  My heart was breaking and I wished I could transport myself home to look for our cat myself.  Just the other week, two people got shot in our complex, and another was shot the week before.  Another was shot the week we moved in.  There were feral cats running loose from the nearby railyard that kill domestic ones, and strange neighbors with kids who chase cats.  Why still live there?  Ask me in December when the lease is up.

 

Sue picked me up a little after twelve noon and we waited at Char’s for my lost bag to arrive after lots of back-and-forth with Delta over the phone.   Finally, a courier arrived along with my bag!  And my clothes!  My hard drive!

 

By the time we made it back to the con, it was almost four and the dealer’s room was closing soon.  We’d missed most of the day!  And in the same hour we got there, just as I was trying to find a way to get Sue’s monitor working, Sue was already packing her things for Char and her to leave for the rest of the convention!  And the dealer’s room was closing with no access to my things until the next day!  And there was so much to do, so much planned for that night, what with the Stoker Awards, the huge hotel parties, and Francy’s show I was supposed to do from the con!  And my smart phone was dead!   I had no idea what to do.  Sue had found a room for me for $59 a night online and had booked it for Saturday and Sunday night, but that was way near the airport, and we figured the fifty bucks I had left would pay for a cab ride to get me there.  We’d visited the hotel and I’d already placed my previously-lost bag in there.   But after Sue and Char bade me final farewells and left, I realized that not only did I need money to get to that hotel that night, but I needed it again to return to the con Sunday, to leave from the con back to the hotel, and from there to the airport Monday morning.  So I looked at my table, tried to ignore the announcement for everyone to clear out because they were closing, and thought of a plan.  I gathered some of my author friends together, had them write down their cell numbers, and left in the only cab I could afford for the night, before the night had even begun.  I figured once in my room, I could set up operations there for everything I needed to do.  I could use the room phone to call Francy while my smart phone charged, have Francy call the other authors during the show just as the Stokers ended and they could be interviewed and do interviews for me and the show would go on.  Then there was the nasty business of getting Francy to drive over and visit my parents to explain my desperate situation and perhaps wire me some money.  They called me themselves with Francy there, and for awhile I had an earful of yelling and frustration and pleas to give up this useless waste of time years-long publishing and writing crusade and get a real job, and they sent me money.  Because of the whole ordeal, and because Francy was distraught over Smokey’s absence, the broadcast that night collapsed into eternal abyss.

 

That night, in spite of the fact that I was exhausted and finally in my own room where I could crash whenever I pleased, I couldn’t sleep and aimlessly paced the floor, talking to myself, figuring out how the hell I get myself into these messes, why I’m always working every single day and night with scarcely a pause for any fun or family in this entire publishing and writing career corner I’ve painted myself into, always broke, the kind of reflection that makes one not want to sleep.  But I did eventually sleep that night after a Wendy’s burger from next door, and about ten am I was able to use my debit card and withdraw money for another cab to the con.  I hung out for as long as I could, still hoping to see Rey Otis and Loren Rhodes, catching opportunities to say goodbyes as I slowly and wearily found myself already packing with the rest of the dealers a couple hours into it.  I had to stroll down Bourbon Street one last time, this time holding a video camera and taping the entire stroll so Francy could have the feeling she was with me when she watched it later.  Afterwards, I gathered my things, got a cab, and made my escape.  That new The Band Perry song “Done,” regrettably, came to mind on the ride back across town to my room.  I bought cigarettes, Popeye’s Chicken, and Taco Bell and spent the night watching the British House of Commons people yell at each other on TV and worrying about where Smokey might be.

 

In the morning I checked out around 6:05 am and requested their airport shuttle.  The clerk told me the next shuttle service is at seven, for they run every hour on the hour.  My flight departure was at eight.  I went outside to smoke and wait, and I’ll be damned if the shuttle wasn’t parked there the whole time.  Still, they made me wait, and just before seven I went in and the clerk saw me and shouted to the Hispanic woman  cleaning the counters around the continental breakfast, “Rosabla, seven o’clock, shuttle bus.”  When I checked my suitcase, they made me pay an extra $90 bucks….it was nine pounds overweight.  Turns out that was about the weight of the books and book marks and trinkets they gave away to everyone at the convention’s registration tables in a backpack from Samhain Press.  That gosh dern thing cost me ninety dollars to take home….it was the only thing I brought back with me.  So even after borrowing money, I came home broke.   And when Francy picked me up, she told me Smokey was still missing.

 

As soon as I arrived home, let my luggage breath before unpacking, I went into a sort of a breakdown.  I started yelling at Francy about the circumstances of Thursday night when Smokey got spooked away, and then I started raving about every pet peeve I have about her, and then at the top of my lungs I went on for what seemed like a long long time about everything that was wrong with my life and the world much in the way Jack Nicholson did with his church rant in The Witches of Eastwick.  All Francy could do was stand in the kitchen and gawk at me.  If it was videotaped for Youtube it would have gone viral.  If it was acting I would’ve won an Academy Award.  If there were a transcript, at least a partial one, it would read something like this, shouted at the top of my lungs for the whole apartment complex (where people shoot each other) to hear:  “What the hell is wrong with everybody!!?  Why is everything so dysfunctional???  Why am I so dysfunctional??  I can’t take it anymore!  I’m tired of working my ass off and still being poor!  I haven’t had a real job since 2007 because when I started publishing, I swore I was going to do it ‘til it works no matter how hard it is, and life keeps bombarding me with an all-out daily assault of BULLSHIT!!!!  Every day I ignore my friends and family and I’m superglued to a bunch of computer screens from ten in the morning to five the next morning, half of the time I’m troubleshooting because something malfunctions or something goes wrong and I spend days trying to solve it, and every day I hear people telling me to get a real job, that I’m a bum, when am I going to wake up and get a life, and I see myself every day aging more rapidly, I’m smoking more, my teeth are falling out and rotting, I never have time to live, I’m neglecting everything else.  I keep telling myself if I bust my ass and commit myself 100%, everything will start coming together and we’ll start making great money and I’ll be telling everyone ‘see?  It all paid off!’  I should be able to pay for and plan for my own convention trips, I used to when I was only a writer, and now that I’m a publisher it’s a swirling decent into a bottomless pit and some of these authors don’t even appreciate it!!  For some of them, it’s always “how many books have you sold for me” when MAYBE it should be me saying “how many books have you sold for ME???”  After all, I’M the one that took a chance on YOU!  I’m relying on YOU to keep me from losing my home and everything I have!  Doctors are advising my parents to give up our family home so they could go into an elderly home because they’re losing their minds and sometimes can’t even remember what the hell it is I do! And I don’t even have time for them!   I sometimes can’t even remember what it is I’M doing!  And why the hell did Sue and Char go through so much trouble and expense going to the WHC when they were barely there???  What’s wrong with people???  WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME!!!!??”

 

I went on and on.  And then I ran into a back bedroom and had a crying fit.  Then I rushed into the bathroom and puked up my guts.  I crawled back out into the livingroom, and I couldn’t breathe.  I was flushed and burning up and dripping with sweat, and then I started panting heavily and I lied there for a brief time.  Francy was by then sitting in the patio probably trying to ignore me. 

 

Then, I gathered myself up, found some determination, smoked a little green a friend had left for me and that calmed me down immensely, splashed water in my face.  I gathered my keys and sunglasses, and went out on foot to search for Smokey.  And I wouldn’t stop until I found him.  He was the best cat I ever knew, and I wasn’t going to waste any more time bitching and boo-hooing mindlessly while he was out there somewhere waiting for me to find him.  The whole time I was away, I knew if I could just get home and go searching, I’d find him.  I walked everywhere, calling out his name, asking neighbors.  Francy joined me, and I told her it reminded me of when my sister went missing and Francy said “I hope this doesn’t have the same outcome.”  We looked and looked, behind every bush, down every path, beneath garbage bins.

 

And then, after awhile, my voice tiring, we found ourselves in a corner section of this vast property near the freeway where it was more shaded, and in calling out once more I heard a response.  A faint meow.  I called again, “Smokey!”  Another meow.  I turned, looked, and I couldn’t believe my eyes.  There he was, on the top of the staircase to the second floor apartments, making his way slowly down, his eyes never leaving me.  I could barely recognize him, he was so thin, beaten-up, leaves and thistles covering his fur.  He was scared to death.  His pupils were black and huge, and his eye sockets were blood red.  I crept up to him and opened my arms and gathered him up in them, and there was this feeling of overwhelming relief that seemed to pass between the two of us, my cat and I, I don’t know how to explain it, something spiritual.  He clung tightly to me as I held him and brought him home, and as we drew nearer he got more excited to see his familiar surroundings.  I kept repeating, “Smokey we found you, we found you, it’s okay, I wouldn’t stop looking, and I found you.  I knew I would.  You’re home, my little friend, it’s all better now.”

 

And I realized something that to me seemed profound.  He and I had both been away for the same length of time, both feeling quite lost, and the whole time I was gone I knew all I had to do was go home 

and look for him, and I would find him, and I wouldn’t stop looking until I did.  I don’t know if Smokey had the same confidence, I got the feeling he thought he’d never see his home or us again.

 

But that is just like me.  You see, I’m extremely stubborn, and when I set my mind to doing something, something I believe in, regardless of how large or small it is, I just have to do it.  I am a horror writer and publisher, and I want to make a difference in this world, somehow, being just that.  I know who I am, I know what I believe.  I may not always know what I’m doing, but I do it anyway. 

 

As Smokey and I both recuperated together that night from the circumstances of the last week, I realized that the world can be one vast, endless, gigantic Bourbon Street itself, just like life, and you could get lost and confused and exhausted in it, and not know where you’re going or what’s going to happen next, but sometimes you just have to lose yourself to find yourself again.  

Smokey.

 


A Writer’s Questions for Black Bed Sheet Books –An Interview with Nicholas Grabowsky by Vincent James Russo

A Writer’s Questions for Black Bed Sheet Books

An Interview with Nicholas Grabowsky

by Vincent James Russo

April 2013

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(Out of all the submissions I get, sometimes I get one with many questions attached and with this one, submitted by writer Vincent James Russo…well, we decided to make it a legitimate interview.  –Nick Grabowsky)

Question: Do you have a 2013 Submission Deadline?

No, but technically we’re all booked up for 2013 and it would be a little late for an author whose submission was just accepted to expect to be published this year. I always leave room for any factor of special circumstances to come into play, which is why I say “technically.”

Question: Is Black Bed Sheet Publications accepting Novellas?

We’re accepting them as in we’ll take a look.  I look for something that can sell on its own, and if a novella’s too short, unless it comes attached with another novella or original stories we can tack onto it and sell it as a collection with the novella as a feature, it’s going to look like a cheap leaflet in printed form all by itself.  In terms of print, it would stand a better chance in ebook only and we do that too, to the right ones.  A good example of a novella we’ve published in print: Unholy Repression by Jessica Lynne Gardner.  Good example of an ebook-only novella: Bone Sai by Ruschelle Dillon.

Question: How many words can my novel be?

I have no word limits, as long as it has so many as to reasonably fall into the category of “novel,” otherwise see Novellas above.

Question: How many pages can my novel be?

I have no page limits.  If it’s War and Peace or The Stand or something, however, it’d better be exceptionally worth every word.

Question: There is a fair amount of sexually explicit scenes in some of my stories as well as hidden sexual undertones and innuendoes. Some of the material that I write is quite vulgar or brutal depending on the subject matter. I also have a pretty violent and graphic rape scene in one of my stories. I also have a story about High School Teenagers participating in (Sex, Drugs, Drinking.) I tend to write certain stories that may or may not be resolved. But a good majority of my stories that I do write have some kind of purpose regardless of the outcome. How would you go about handling or editing certain situations in my novel? Or would you even accept that kind of material?

What’s important is STORY, and how well you tell it.  If any material offensive to the large majority of society is there just for the sake of being there, then it’s only marketable to the small audience of the kind of people who are drawn to that.  But if it’s there for a purpose and works, it’s scary and compelling and that’s what we’re looking for.  When it comes to the editing, I work with the author and if you ask any of the others I’ve never yet taken out a single description or scene of that nature unless it was the author’s idea, I’ve never yet had a reason to.  Good examples:  Merciless by Brandon Ford, Spinner by Dustin LaValley, Blood Related by William Cook.

Question: My first novel is an Anthology of Thirteen Short-stories that I am currently writing. The stories are Fiction of course as well as Urban Legends and Folklore. They are told from the original stories point of view as well as putting my own personal spin and twist to it. The genre I am writing for this falls under Horror, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy etc. Will Black Bed Sheet Publications accept that?

Yes, that kind of thing is right up our alley, case in point is S.C. Hayden’s Rusty Nails, Broken Glass, which we just released April 6, a collection of stories based on urban legends and folklore.  The thing about that though, is we get a few hundred submissions a year at least, many of which is similar material, and we can only pick a tiny select few each year so they have to be exceptional.

Question: If I were to sign a contract with you, how long would I remain with Black Bed Sheet Publications? Would you require one book a year from me, or during my time with you do require several novels of mine during a legitimate length amount of time? Also, if another publishing company was interested in me and wanted to hire me and I was already in a contract with you. How would you go about handling that?

I try to keep it simple for both of us.  The standard contract is good for one year….I have up to one year to publish it, and then it’s one year from the date of actual publication from there.  That’s one year per title.  Sometimes an agreement is brought to the table where the author has a series or a trilogy and they want to make a deal with all three and we do that.  Oftentimes in retrospect one year doesn’t always seem to be long enough but the author is free to extend their contract after that time and about 90% do.  It’s 2013 and I still have a fair amount of the books I signed in 2008.  I don’t believe in owning an author.  All I want is to invest my time and money into a book they wrote and hope we make something off of it and in the process give their writing careers a little boost further up the ladder, depending on the time they’re willing to put into helping me do it.  I encourage them to publish elsewhere too.  I encourage authors to spread themselves around their industry, don’t just stick with me alone.  A serious author has to keep writing, keep getting their stuff out there….magazines, other projects, other books, with other publishers.  Once an author is with me and they want to submit a follow-up, their submission always takes priority, though, and I haven’t yet turned one down.  As a result, over the years about half my authors have accumulated more than one project with me.  After all, I believe in them or I wouldn’t have published their last material.

Question: Since my book would be an ebook first and someone happens to purchase it online. I too would get a certain percentage of that money correct? Also, if my book goes to print does Black Bed Sheet Publications produce both Hardcover and Paperback? or just Paperback? Would I receive in the mail several copies of my print book to sell on my own accord to Family and Friends? How many print books would I get to have for myself?

No one said it would be an ebook first; we mostly do (and pride ourselves in doing) print books, trade paperbacks.  Those books are also sold as ebooks.  But we do publish books in ebook only.  Novels, collections, and because ebook content is so flexible we publish ebook stand-alone novellas and shorts like Bart Brevik’s Demon of Despair.  Because ebooks are cost-effective we’re able to reach out to what we feel is great talent on a broader scale and, of course, if things work out for both of us we’re happy to put them into print.  Some ebook-only authors are even able to have limited print runs for appearances from time to time.  We’re also trying out in-person, in-store ebook-only signings where you can purchase an ebook personally from the author and they’ll sign it on their laptop and hand it to you.  And nope, we don’t do hardcover, at least not yet, because of cost.  I’ve put out hardcover editions of some of my own novels through BBS from my ‘80’s paperback days, but that’s it so far.  Also, every author gets only one free author copy unless we make arrangements otherwise, but most publishers only give their authors ten-twenty percent off retail for authors copies and I charge a dollar-fifty per copy above what I pay to get them (it used to be two dollars a copy), and that averages out to be 55% off, about what stores would pay for them wholesale, sometimes less.  On top of that, I recently made it so all BBS authors can purchase each other’s books at each one’s author’s prices too, to encourage them to read each other’s works.

Question: My first novel like I mentioned is an Anthology of Thirteen Short-stories that I am currently writing. I have a few local Artists who are friends of mine that are interested in doing the illustrations for my stories. Basically, it would be Thirteen B & W drawings that they would do themselves to go along with the story. If I do decide to go down that road and go about adding drawings into my novel, do I pay them out of my own pocket or does Black Bed Sheet Publication pay them? Also, how much do I pay them either if it’s just one person or several individuals all together that want me to include there Artwork that I may or may not use in my novel? I just want to know how that works?

We are small, independent, and perhaps maybe “underground,” if you will, with a very limited almost bare-bones budget.  We want to be able to be in the financial position to pay an outside artist if the artist is good enough.  On the other hand, if we were able to pay then our standards for accepting outside artists would go up and we’d be more picky.  But if the author really believes in this artist we have no problem with it, we work with the author in every way possible.  Most of the time when that happens, the artist is trying to get themselves known and does it at no cost for that very reason, or as a favor to the author.  If that artist expects a fee, though, and the author insists on using him/her, it’s up to the author and the artist to have that worked out between themselves.  Ultimately, BBS reserves the right to have the final say or manipulate the artwork in marketing & merchandising for the benefit of the book and how we feel it’ll sell best.  Selling it best is what ultimately matters, after all.  For now, we won’t let the lack of funding in our little outfit stop us from whatever the author wants to bring to the project’s table if he wants to bring it.

Question: I do like some of the cover art that Black Bed Sheet produces. But also I have in mind a few outside cover artists that I would like to go with myself. If I were to go with an outside cover artist of my own and they agree to do the artwork for my book. Do I myself or does Black Bed Sheet Publications pay them? Also, do I pay the Black Bed Sheet cover artist or does Black Bed Sheet Publications take care of there own?

I’m the cover artist.  I have fourteen years in graphic design, thirty years as an author in the industry and I have an advertising background. I do 90% of the covers, banners, posters, marketing ads, design.  In fact, I started BBS doing every facet of it and I’m still essentially a one-man show.  I have an equally lengthy experience in editing and marketing.  The reason Black Bed Sheet Books exists stemmed from my making a deal with Trancas Films to release a special edition of my Halloween IV novel and I did that myself, and, having the rights back to my previously published works, I decided to self-publish a number of my own works, design them myself and put them together and market them, and I simply got to thinking, if I can do all this, maybe I should go into business and do the same thing for a handful of other authors each year and be a publisher.  Another thing was, I’ve been screwed by many a publisher and seen countless other authors go through the same thing, and I wanted set an example in doing it all the right and honest way.  Fundamentally, the right way to be a legitimate publisher is to invest his own money in something he can publish that can hopefully make him some money back, and it’s the publisher’s responsibility to put that book together, inside and out, and to try and sell it for all the reasons he chose to publish that book in the first place. That goes for the cover, too.  As with everything, the author can and has brought their own artists to the table or worked with me together on the cover.  Sue Dent’s Electric Angel was the result of Sue independently working with a photographer and a male model, then I would take the photos and design them into a great cover.  They did it because it was fun and they were capable and being Sue is an accomplished author and they were friends, there was no money involved and they get their names out there a little further.  That’s the spirit of what we’re about, and it works great.  One of these days we’ll be prosperous enough to afford opportunities to employ outside cover designers and artists, we want that.  But between myself, artist friends of authors, and working together, the author doesn’t need to spend their own money on covers but can if they want to.  They just never pay us.

Question: Would Black Bed Sheet Publications market one of their own Authors who are relatively unknown to do book signings at Barnes & Noble or any other Book store outlet in order to market them and spread the word amongst the Author circuit about them? Would Black Bed Sheet Publications promote and market their client at a Horror and Comic-Con or any other Conventions etc? Does the Author pay the Conventions He or She attend in order to market themselves or does Black Bed Sheet pay the people who run and are responsible for the Convention?

Black Bed Sheet has been responsible for many appearances of many authors, directly or indirectly. Our books are orderable through Ingram, Baker & Taylor, any book store can order our books and negotiate a signing and the returnability of those books.  We work best with independent stores.  Many of our authors have had Barnes & Noble signings, though not all B&N do small press author signings, either, unless they’re local but sometimes not even that.  Many of our authors have had successful convention appearances.  I’ve orchestrated my own BBS convention events about twice a year on average…we usually have a strong presence at Horrorfind or the World Horror Convention and have sponsored our own tables, readings, hotel parties, and broadcast live with our 200,000-listener internet radio show Francy & Friends from most of them.  The Meet & Greet author Brian Keene arranged for us at the Horrorfind in PA a few years back and its hotel party was legendary.  We’ve had great moments like that and hope to keep having them!  Also there are many, many cases where the authors arrange their own event appearances and do it all themselves and I just make sure they get their books on time.  They sell their own merchandise or merchandise I designed for them that they bought from me at cost to sell or give away, and they proudly display BBS banners and sometimes even other BBS authors’ books as well as sell whatever other books they have from other publishers alongside their BBS books.   This year (2013), although our authors have many appearances and thanks to author Shannon Lee (Mythic Blood) we have a presence at the World Horror Convention in New Orleans this summer, I’m not personally investing in conventions in favor of putting one together locally myself instead with BBS written all over it. But in the cases of even those conventions BBS itself had tables and events with me there, the authors have had to pay for their own trips/rooms though some would room together.  Again, we’d love to one day be prosperous enough to afford to.

Question: Does Black Bed Sheet Publications start up a Web-Site for the Author or does the Author have to come up with making up their own personal Web-Site?

The author is responsible for doing that, and should be.  We’re serious about the books we’re publishing for them, but they should be serious enough about the scope and direction of their careers to have that taken care of independent from us.  In fact, when I look for an author deal, I not only look at the work itself, how well its written and its potential and if I can get excited about it, but I look at the author and their willingness to work as much of their ass off as they can, their ability to self-promote, their passion, how serious they view writing as something they want to do far more than simply indulge in.  In considering an author’s work, it’s often very frustrating trying to look them up online to see what else they’ve done and find they don’t even have a website.  NOT that not having a website turns me off completely. I’ve taken on authors with no websites and now, with a tiny bit of direction, they do.

Question: Would you advise an Author to put both an E-Mail and P.O. Box in the beginning or the end of his or her novel for Fans or other people to get in contact with them?

An author should always have a way for fans to get a hold of them and they should make that way known anywhere they can.  In all of our publications, we always put an author bio and all that information in the back.  We also have advertisements of our other titles in the back of every BBS book.

Question: Would you advise an Author to put his or her Facebook, Twitter, etc on his, her or the Publications Web-Site?

By all means!  Why not?  Unless an author wants his or her best ways of keeping up-to-date with them kept secret.  You don’t want to be a secret pimping a book you wrote that you want many people to buy and read.  I don’t know, though….with some of the generally graphically violent/scary material we publish, you’d think maybe some of us would have SOMETHING to hide!  Just kidding.

Question: Would you have a problem if the Author wanted to submit his or her work to a Magazine?

Not at all.  For reasons stated above, I highly encourage it.  If you’re talking about the work I’d be publishing, not the whole thing, of course, but excepts or a single story from a collection maybe.  But you can submit any other story anywhere at any time to anyhoo while you’re with us with the one we’re publishing for you.

Question: I noticed the Authors on the Web-Site have his or her brief Bio up on the site. Does Black Bed Sheet Publications write the Authors Bio on the site or do the Authors themselves write their own Bio for themselves to put up on the site?

Usually it’s the authors themselves with input from me.  Sometimes it’s me.  Mostly the authors already have one that I use on mine and it updates from time to time.  It’s often the same bio that’s found in the backs of their books.

Question: I watched one of the videos you made yourself on YouTube and you said that in 2013 you would like and are trying to have a weekend convention at a Hotel over by you just with “Black Bed Sheet” Authors. Is that still in the works?

Not just Black Bed Sheet authors but highlighting them, and with lots of independent horror talent.  Yes, it’s in the works and taking shape.  It’s called DAYS OF TERROR and has its own Facebook page (please like!), and it looks like we’re focusing on the beginning of next year.  It involves the efforts of BBS and other Northern California horror celebrities I’ve pulled together, notably Miss Misery whose “Miss Misery’s Days of Terror last year was a tremendous success.

Question: How and when would you go about telling one of your Authors in regards to getting a Manager and Agent for themselves?

You are your most important manager or agent, first and foremost.  More likely than not, you can get a lot farther on your own.  That’s not to say the right one won’t help you, as long as they don’t take your money but rather earn it from a deal they get for you, but you’re probably going to find that most won’t really do anything more for you than what you could’ve done in the first place with a little extra effort and resourcefulness. The more people you meet who do what you do, the more connections you make….not just in social networking but getting out there yourself to events and placing yourself in the midst of opportunity, that can get you far and that’s just you doing it.  In a sense, I act as an agent in regard to an author’s publication with me.  I’m always looking to my resources and connections to find foreign rights deals and film and comic book deals.  Some of our authors have such deals albeit nothing beyond the realms of the independent world, nothing to make us rich.  At least not yet.

Question: How much does a “Black Bed Sheet” Author earn a year?

If they spent it all in one place, maybe enough for a good family dinner at Denny’s without using coupons.  It’s a tough, competitive business and it seems every Joe and his mother has a book out these days.  The market’s oversaturated.  Many, many presses large and small go under and the small ones rise, take a leap, and splatter all over the pavement.  I do this full time, and in doing it I face financial calamity every single month barely being able to keep my life afloat, working for that one big break or deal or success I need to make it easier to bring Black Bed Sheet into the resounding and profitable and influential institution it’s meant to be for myself and all its authors.  Right now, the reality is an author makes very little when their book is sold through a distributor compared to books that are sold direct. The authors who generally make the most money so far have been authors who buy their own copies and personally sell them.  Then there’s sales direct from our online store where authors get a large chunk of their royalties.  Oftentimes, a retail store book signing can seem to be a success but when the remaining books are returned through the distributor, those sales are swallowed by so many extra costs it eats into profits.  Most print sales through online stores, by the time the profits filter through the stores and distributors and me to the author’s 14% of what I get, we have to really sell to make something of it that way.

Question: How do you pay the Author?

Quarterly royalties, check or Paypal, based on the percentages in our contract. Usually it’s about 14%.  Sometimes I’m a few weeks late, but they get ‘em!  I’m the BBS accountant, too.

Question: Does “Black Bed Sheet Publications” loan their Author some spending money before his or her book is even out?

I wish.  I really do.  I wish we gave out advances against royalties, but that’s not within our budget yet.  I sometimes wish someone would loan me a good chunk of spending money that I could use on authors, but I haven’t yet found the right investor.  That’s an option I’m keeping a keen but reluctant eye out for.

Question: Does “Black Bed Sheet Publications” have any Independent/Mainstream connections to turn one of the Author’s books into a Feature Length Film, Series, Mini-Series, TV Show?

We have a plethora of independent connections in film, television, plenty of resources on my end with my career, then Francy’s show of course and all her genre-related guests and connections and friends we have in the industry, our partners Shot in the Dark Comics and Hacker’s Source Magazine, etc.  As I’ve said above, some of our authors have deals as a result of being BBS authors, latest case in point being Jason Gehlert and his Quiver werewolf feature with Wits’ End Entertainment as well as so many things we have going with Shot in the Dark. I’m also supposed to be doing my Cutting Edges creature flick soon.

Question: What can I look forward to as an Author to be a part of the “Black Bed Sheet” family?

Aside from what I stated above and depending on you: a wild ride of experience, an opening of doors, direction, and, as many BBS authors have conveyed to me, it may change your life despite the fact we ain’t none of us rich yet.  And in ways already, we’re influencing the book industry, gained genre-wide respect, and are taking over the world. Check out our expanding universe at http://www.downwarden.com/blackbedsheet and buy our excellent books at http://www.downwarden.com/blackbedsheetstore


BLACK BED SHEET NIGHTMARES –AN INDEPENDENT HORROR PUBLISHER’S RANT

BLACK BED SHEET NIGHTMARES –AN INDEPENDENT HORROR PUBLISHER’S RANT
by Nicholas Grabowsky

I think this is the very first time I felt I had to openly address negative issues and certain frustrations some of you may have as current or non-current BBS authors, so I figure I’ll just go all out and throw everything on the table from beginning to end. The first time I set to write this, I steadily drank until 5 in the morning and it was originally titled “Why Horror Publishing Makes Me Want to Just Shoot Myself in the Head and Die.” For four years I’ve been doing this, this Black Bed Sheet Books thing, and absolutely only that. As most of you know I have no side job, no other income except from my own books. Some of you hear me talk about how I labor endlessly until 5 am working on one thing or another, someone’s edit, someone’s book cover or trailer, or that a computer broke down, or how I’m so intensely gosh darn hellishly busy it takes me sometimes two weeks to even months to answer some emails.

For now, I’m going to take a deep breath and reflect a bit for you, self-evaluate my performance as a publisher, address all the issues, explain a few things, and hopefully something good will come from what I have to say and I won’t need to write another one of these essay-length things.

There was a time I thought I had a good job managing a large retail book store. That went out of business and everyone lost their jobs. Then, after living all my life in Southern CA, my sister was abducted from her school and I went to join the search for her in Northern CA. When her body was found, I decided to stay there with my folks. In a month’s time I got a job at the Walmart down the street from them and worked for them full time for five years doing everything from mixing paint to being in charge of the front check-out lines. One week in December before the year 2000 hit, I smoked some pot. The next week at work, someone needed me in the Garden Department to bring down some Xmas tree stands from atop the tallest overstock risers (back when there was such a thing} from the top step of the highest wheeled ladder in the store, and when I retrieved them, as I was making my way down, I stumbled and spilled those stands everywhere in front of a ton of customers and employees. After I got up off my ass, I announced to everyone that I was okay, there was nothing to see here, and I limped away. Next day, my ankle was hurting so bad I opted to have it seen by a doctor, but a drug test in the process told Walmart about the pot I’d smoked the previous week, and regardless of how much of myself I’d given that store, I was let go.

I got a job with Homebase right after, a hardware chain that at the time in our area rivaled Home Depot, and I gave that job 100% too. They went out of business, laid off everyone. Employees that worked there for twenty years lost everything. Then there was House 2 Home, a brand new big home decoration/improvement chain were I was hired as a department manager and so many other people had quit very respectable positions at Target and other places to work for them. Within not even six months, the entire chain went under and when we all got the news at a morning meeting, people actually fell to their knees and wept.

I got a part time weekend job with Volunteers of America as a mentor to foster teens in a transitional housing program which I ultimately managed to keep for five years afterwards, but I needed full-time employment. So then I also found a job at Lowes, another huge home improvement store. I worked full time in Garden, got my forklift license, and fulltime from six am I busted my ass stacking bags of fertilizer and cement blocks with supervisors telling me to hustle all the freaking time.

Then one day when I was working, a supervisor came up to me and escorted me to the manager’s office, where I was joined by the manager and a security guard. The manager asked me if I had a DUI in 2000. I thought he was trying to get to some other point. But he told me when I filled out my application several months prior that I put a check mark on the wrong box where it asked me if I had any misdemeanors. It was the only misdemeanor I’d had in my life, but I apparently marked “no.” So I was fired, I was escorted to my locker, cleaned it out, and was escorted to the front exit with all my fellow employees looking at me like I stole something.

That summer, I looked and looked and looked for jobs. I went through so many interviews and was trying to go for retail management and had many second and third interviews at the same places. During that period, I started putting on my resumes that I’ve had this rich history of being a respected horror author for quite a while. I thought it would help, let possible employers know I don’t screw around with my life and have ambition and the whole nine yards. You’d think if I were sitting down with a manager at Safeway or Home Depot or Hollywood Video for a third interview that I got the job. Instead, what I got, believe it or not, were supervisors sitting behind their desks handing me manuscripts of books they’d been writing, asking me for advice or if there was any way I could help them in getting their book published. My inability to get a job was confounding, and by then I was living in Roseville in a house with a woman I’d worked with at House 2 Home whom I was going to marry and where we were raising our baby son Charlie.

That October, I was under all kinds of pressure to make ends meet, and one night I visited a friend, had some beers, and tried out his motorized skateboard scooter. I was drunk and stupid and fractured and dislocated my shoulder after flying over the handle bars and landing shoulder-first in the middle of the street. I was screaming the entire time I waited in the hospital emergency room because it really hurt like hell, and when the doctors saw me they didn’t realize my shoulder was dislocated. So I couldn’t move my arm for two months. Then some other doctor told me my shoulder was indeed dislocated and had healed over, and recommended I sue the hospital because I could’ve been fixed that same night. I went through surgery where my shoulder and arm had to be essentially taken off and put back on right. I spent several months with my whole upper torso and arm in a big metal sling-like contraption and underwent all kinds of therapy to be able to use my arm and feel the nerves in my hand again, from taking a rubber ball and rolling it up a wall dozens of times each day just to get my arm to lift and go back down because I couldn’t for the longest time get that sucker to raise past my waist.

The upside to that was I did file a lawsuit and we settled out of court. Said and done, I got thrity-five grand out of it. It’s the story of my life sometimes: certain tragedy turns itself into something positive later. I took ten of it and split it between my parents and my fiance’s parents. I put some into improvements to the house we lived in. I put the rest of it toward my writing career. Among the first things I did in that regard was set up convention appearances across the continent over the next couple of years and invited up-and-coming authors from as far as the UK to join me at these conventions by paying for their tables and supporting them.

Then my publisher, a guy who basically ran his business from his home for five years up until that point successfully, just up and flaked on everyone, disappeared leaving authors at book signings with no books and owing 125 authors royalties, it was a complete mess. He was supposed to publish RED WET DIRT for me and with lots of hoopla. I was so disappointed. But I had a history of disappointment with publishers for as long as they’d been publishing me, up until then about nearly 20 years. I was never paid anything for Halloween IV or any of my books as Nicholas Randers. Back then I had to promote myself because no one else was doing it. I made my rounds to local supermarket distributors and developed relationships with them so my paperbacks could be alongside King’s and Koontz’, did my own flyers and mail order ads. Back then everyone with a published novel was published the hard traditional way unless they had spent thousands and thousands on a vanity press.

Once there was a time my early books were everywhere, and I was working at Video Giant. There were times where people would buy Halloween IV and Pray Serpent’s Prey at the Albertson’s supermarket that shared our parking lot, come in while my boss was busy yelling at me for not straightening the shelves fast enough, and ask me to sign books I would never be paid for.

There were many reasons I started Black Bed Sheet Books, and one of the strongest was because I’d been through so much with publishers that I vowed to do better. But an equally powerful reason pertains to why I gave you a brief history of my recent working life. I stopped believing there was such a thing as job security anymore. Most of what I learned in life had become to me a redundant adage, the thing about doing something yourself if you want to get anything done. But it was more than that, I wanted to take control of my life. I didn’t want to have to worry about endlessly looking for a job anymore, or ever getting fired, or the company going out of business. This time, I was in charge, and my success was up to me. I had absolutely every reason you can think of to decide that this was what I was going to do for the rest of my life and I was going to do everything it took to make it work.

To make me even further determined, I lost the weekend job I had for the last five-plus years as a youth mentor. I’d been actively making a difference in the lives of foster teens, helped found a library for them, taught them healing through writing, and was even going to publish a short anthology they would all write so they could all have one big book signing and it would inspire them. Being they were a conservative Christian organization, they had a problem with me influencing their group homes with cool horror literature and movies like Pan Labyrinth and used an instance where I couldn’t make it to work one day to fire me.

In launching BBS, people emerged from all life’s avenues to show their support, from the writing world to the local business world to my family of relatives who largely had never been enthusiastic about my being a writer, to my fiancé. The first order of business was to start where my last publisher left off, to publish RED WET DIRT. After that, I worked night and day publishing other people, focusing on those who just needed a break. I poured the rest of my shoulder money into the business, had a screenplay/movie deal going, picked up some good author friends’ works, had a deal with Mountain Mike’s Pizza where my face was on a box of every pizza in town.

8 months later: I found myself sitting on my parent’s front porch with my laptop running Black Bed Sheet, living in their guest room like I did when I first came up there in ’95. My laptop and my parents were the only things I could count on. The pizza thing didn’t go over well, little girls’ birthday pizza parties weren’t a good atmosphere for selling horror books. I was flat broke. I was only allowed to see my four-year-old at a park for three hours on Tuesdays with one of my ex-fiance’s lawyers spies watching me to make sure I took him potty every hour. My only possessions were dumped in front of the house I once lived in and were placed in storage. My parents were spending money they didn’t have for a lawyer. I wound up in the emergency room after having something like a heart attack in front of my parents. The prior months had been filled with increasingly countless arguments where my money ran out and I didn’t make a profit right away and everything turned into “get a job” this and “you’re nothing but a hopeless loser” that, not just from her, but her family. So one morning when I was getting our son ready for school my fiancé came at me after drinking all night and that time I slapped her. And then even the courts started telling me I was a hopeless loser and to get a job. Funny how things can change in eight months.

But there I was, with my laptop and cigarettes and beer and reasons enough to crawl under a rock forever, and I popped out seven books that summer, designed, edited, covers and all, on time for their release dates. One of them was one of Forest J Ackerman’s last written works, and that year I won 5th Best Publisher in the Predator’s and Editor’s Reader’s Poll, and came out with more releases later that year. My determination has been like that ever since also, and I can understand how on one hand I can be so persistent and obsessive filling all my time with Black Bed Sheet that I neglect my significant others and they get frustrated, but on the other hand that same persistence has overcome ridiculous adversity.

That first year and ever since, my personal life has tossed me around a bit with adversity that I face and somehow conquer all the time. Having to pay child support hadn’t been part of the plan, and leftover books from author book signings and other book returns started swallowing up profits because they force you to pay back almost twice as much as you thought you made when the stores first ordered them. That would wipe out pay periods where I had to pay royalties out of pocket. Every month I have bills to pay to maintain BBS, from credit card companies, virtual registers, website hosting fees, printing fees, distribution fees, regular fees to keep titles active. I rarely have any money left over for myself, it all goes right back into BBS or to catch up on bills at my current apartment with Francy. Just after that happened with my ex, my BBS business account went into collections, and I eventually fell behind on child support. So there’d be times when an author would send me money for books, or times when rent was due, and suddenly that money would be gone because child services would seize it out of the blue. I’d have to get a loan, or earn that money back right away by doing yardwork for my dad, for example. On the surface, authors never know, because the author book orders always get filled, royalties always get paid, releases come out, everything gets done. I don’t like talking about that, because as a rule in business you never let any more problems out of the bag than you have to, lest in my case the authors lose faith in you, and who would want to be with a publisher who complains about problems all the time in the first place?

Computers and circumstance and ghosts in the machine: this is outright my biggest headache, and half my time is wasted on it….problem solving, troubleshooting and dealing with computer problems. That’s half my time being forced to be unproductive. Emails get lost, computers go out, programs fail, and I don’t rest until everything is functional again. It happens all the time, always putting me off schedule and eating into valuable time when things really need to get done, and everything piles up on me. And then there’s the fact that I can’t always count on printers and distributors and people I do business with to be timely. Often, they seem to have stupid people working for them, or they change their policies, or I have to wait two weeks for them to do something that normally takes two days. And oh the irony, some companies I’ve relied on with BBS go out of business themselves, just the type of thing I was trying to get away from.

And then there’s the authors themselves. I have the utmost respect for authors, authors of any kind. But I’ve always had a special kinship with authors of horror and genres close to it, and a mutual respect. Before BBS, I was already known for years to help independent struggling authors. It’s embedded into my entire life: writing and inspiring others to write, since before most kids my age even learned to write. But I tell you, in many ways it’s a whole different world when you’re a publisher. You’re in a position where you can truly make authors happy, or on the other hand let authors down. I’ve done both these four years, time and again, more happy than otherwise, but the ones who felt let down……some of them really get pissed off.

For me, authors are a lot like customers in a busy retail store, and I’m running the store by myself. Although they are there for my services, I paid for them out of my own pocket to be there from as soon as they walked through the front entrance, and the longer they stay, the more I have to keep paying. And just one or two simply won’t do, I have to have an amount reasonable enough to keep the store open, at least an average of twelve new titles a year with releases disbursed through the seasons to keep us fresh with new product to compliment the old, I can’t stagnate. Most of the time you’ll see me running in every different direction around the store, trying to fill all my obligations and a multitude of special needs. One time I’d be stuck at the paint counter while a line of impatient people are piling up at the Sporting Goods counter waiting for help, and I’d excuse myself to run over there and bring the line down, then on my way back someone would catch me to ask me questions and to take a bike down for them in the toy department, then I’m needed at the service desk, then UPS is banging at the back door, then customers complain that nobody’s answering their phone calls, someone spills hazardous waste on aisle 12 and the plants in the Garden Center haven’t been watered in over a week. Some days are better than others, some days I don’t have to run around as much, some days everything works. Then other days I can’t even use the restroom without people pounding on the doors.

I lost a few friends over this business, let alone a fiancé. One was an author who was extremely enthusiastic at first and was determined to sell a million copies. Then he ordered 500 copies for himself, drew most of the attention to selling those copies, and then wanted out of his contract because I wasn’t selling enough for him. I had a close author friend who signed with me, and the day after a real successful Francy show with her as the guest, I received a very bitter email from her complaining how I failed to get her into a particular Books-a-million like I’d promised. It turns out the manager had turned her down time and again and according to her my promise to get her in that store was the only reason she signed with me, otherwise she would have published the book herself. There was a juicy anthology of about 12-15 authors that would have gone over well if only all of them lifted more than a finger to promote it instead of a small few. I’m really shocked at the kinds of authors who come in, expect me to do everything for them while they disappear somewhere, and some of them I never hear from again, even after their contracts expire. I took on one author who was supposed to be well-known but struggling with publishers who insisted I did everything her way, from cover to edit, and I spent so much time with that edit that it was eating away my work with Xmas releases. Then her and her co-author demanded I take the book to a pro editor that charges $2,000. I dissolved the contract, and the next week she was up on a site raising that same $2,000 for an editor. The book came out two months later with a publisher that had only two releases, and I bet the edit’s exactly the same as mine.

Some authors expect I’m going to sell them tons of books, some expect I have to do things their way. Some expect me to take their book on and then when it’s published point to every other place under heaven but BBS for readers to buy their book, barely mention BBS on their site, nothing. Sometimes their numbers at Amazon are the only thing important to them, or don’t understand the debilitating reality of book store returns and still insist it’s vital to their careers to get into Barnes & Noble. Some authors are completely happy one week, then the next are extremely frustrated, then get happy again, and go back and forth that way. Some demand a lot of my time at the expense of the other authors and the business. Regardless, in all situations, I’m always finding myself struggling to make everyone happy all the time. Whenever anyone’s not happy, I get worried and depressed and even that sometimes slows things down.

Whether I’m to blame for one thing or someone else is to blame for another, it’s hard doing this. Neither my relatives nor family nor the court system acknowledge this is a real job. When I watch American Idol, the part where the final contestants get to visit their hometowns and there’s always lots of fanfare and keys to the city…..if I get truly successful doing this, I’d be lucky if my triumphant homecoming would have all of three people in a backyard with a piece of cake. And believe me, the people I get the most complaints from are not authors, but bill collectors, child support people, and my mom. Even Francy complains. I’m always busy, I’m always feeling like I’m a week away from being homeless and I pound and pound away at my computers because I’ve got this stubborn undying certainty that this is all for my future, the future of my family, my calling in life. Writing too. I keep forgetting about writing.

I’m not saying I’m blameless and never fall short. Some writers are serious and well-meaning, and I always encourage them to speak up and tell me what’s on their mind and we work together to resolve issues. And I get tons of emails, some get lost. Some of my emails to them get lost. Sometimes I only have a half hour each day to answer emails because I otherwise get nothing done, and the first fifteen minutes is spent sorting out the nonsense. It’s rarely really a communication problem, it’s more of a responding-to-communication problem on my part. I also come from a background where it was common to take six months for my own agent to get back with me, let alone a publisher, and now I see all the reasons why other people in my shoes have always taken so long in the past. The bulk of the reason why I chose to do this newsletter/essay was to address some of the complaints that I get, and I’ve really turned over the matter of it taking awhile for emails for four years. I don’t know what else to say about the matter except I apologize, I still have no idea how I can be quicker unless it requires my attention right away. I don’t even know why that’s so much an issue. I talk to BBS authors all the time on Facebook on a regular basis. Shoot me messages or chats, remind me of things, don’t be afraid to be a pest sometimes and always voice your concerns. Just never assume I’m giving anything less than one hundred percent, that I’m neglectful or slacking or trying to get away with anything I shouldn’t. I’m entirely the real deal.

I’m in the business of giving writers a break, particularly horror authors. I do that. I accept a handful a year out of maybe two hundred, invest time and energy and money into them, produce as professional a product as what I’d expect from my own works. I also act as their agent for that product, looking for foreign deals and adaptations, movie deals, comic book deals. I spend time gathering partners and affiliates, promoting my titles wherever I go in person and online and through all the outlets and networks I’ve built over the years, feature them in our catalogs, create merchandise and web marketing tools for them. Sometimes that looks to authors as if I haven’t yet done anything for them, because sales are too low or they feel like I’ve neglected them, they haven’t a movie or comic deal yet, or I haven’t hooked them up with a live podcast like I promised.

If you want your book to go further, it depends on you. You must realize that a one-year contract isn’t much time at all for a publisher to market a book. By the end of that year I always feel like I haven’t done enough even though I have. I also need you to get with other authors, exchange and review each other’s books, help in the effort to work as a team. Not very many of you do that. A lot of BBS authors get their book signings, appearances, readings, interviews, book reviews, publicity and hoopla with no problem, with my help and without, and their experience with me has brought them a few steps up the ladder in their careers and further in the industry.

This was supposed to be a rant about the negative things, to get points across and address issues. I’m not known for complaining or negativity. I just really felt the need to get this out. We are in the midst of exciting growth and expansion, a great Fall/Winter season, our authors are getting comic and movie deals and getting their works and names out further in the world, we have remarkable partners and created many memorable events and appearances across the country, been responsible for innovative industry firsts which raise the bar for the rest and continue to do just that. We have a popular radio show, a web TV channel and the ambition to take over the world. We’re recognized as among the best and most sought after small independent publishers of book-length horror fiction in the world. I do my best to run it and sometimes I fall flat on my face, but it will always be here as the other publishers come and go, and we’re always moving forward.

Inspiration & Horror always,
—Nicholas Grabowsky,
Black Bed Sheet Books
http://www.downwarden.com/blackbedsheet


Hookers, Homeland Security and a Horror Writer on an Amtrak

  I realized after the fact that attending the World Horror Convention the other weekend and being an active participant in programming marked the first time I represented Black Bed Sheet Books in an industry environment compared to a fan festival. I held my pitch sessions, readings, hobnobbed and ran our dealer’s table. Hung out with BBS authors like Andrew Beresford, S.C. Hayden, Jeniffer Caress, Lincoln Crisler, and a plethora of other authors and publishers including, of note, Sam Cowan of Montag Press who, as it turns out, lives just down the street from me. BBS (Alex, S.C. & I) were interviewed by a handful of media cable and radio shows including Residual Haunting Revived ( http://residualhauntings.podomatic.com/ ). They showed our trailers throughout the film fest. Talked to some key people about my ideas for renovating the industry, and they listened. Pimped Shot in the Dark Comics, Hacker’s Source Magazine, and Muscle Wolf Productions, our partners, did some readings, watched my authors (and myself) do well at the mass signing that Friday. Got a lot of business done, and BBS will continue to grow because of some things I accomplished there. It was an experience I’ll never forget, just like every time I go.

Well, call me a little disorganized or just plain stupid. I thought I had my trip well planned out. I was supposed to catch the Amtrak train back home at 11:30 am Sunday Morning, April first. Had to catch a cab from my Motel 6 and then drag my two huge tattered wheel-less suitcases heavy with books and my clothes bag and computer equipment around the Amtrak building to wait for the train. And I waited. It was raining, sometimes pouring, sometimes snowing, I had to go bathroom and there was no shelter, and homeless people were scoping me out. There was a station there but it was closed, and after two hours I thought to dial the 800 number in the window on my cell phone.

 

APRIL FOOLS! Turns out the train was arriving at 11:30PM, which was why the station was closed in the first place. I was directed on my ticket to the little teeny “p” beside the “11:30.” So….

 

I dragged my luggage around to all the payphones in the area but all the pages for taxis in their Yellow Pages had been ripped out, and then I saw a cab afar off and dragged my luggage over to him. I went back to the Motel 6 and paid for another night, and the only room they had was on the second floor. This was to be the last time I’d use that luggage. I was exhausted by the time I got situated, as I partied late until 6 that morning with Boyd Harris, Gord Rollo, RJ Cavendar, Evil Jester Press, and more great people, and I figured I’d nurse my hangover on that dern train 😦  So…

 

I went out to calm down from my disappointing ordeal and passed a hooker hanging out right there in the Motel 6 parking lot. She kept trying to get my attention as I passed, and I kept eyeing the police car partially hidden not far away in the parkinglot of a building diagonal to us across the nearby intersection and wondering what the hell was she doing??? Iwent out again for hot dogs at the Maverick gas station nearby, and later went for McDonald’s, all the while that hooker was just hanging out and whistling at me in the rain. After napping and watching Shrek the 3rd on HBO, she was still out there by the time my lab cab in Salt Lake City arrived.

 

So here’s the thing: I had a lower-level seat on the train, and from the time I got all comfy I was one of three in the entire car and had a decent night’s rest during the ten-hour ride from Salt Lake to Reno. They announced just before our arrival in Reno that there are many passengers waiting there and we were going to be at full capacity. I took my bag and laptop from the seat next to me to make room, and the train filled. At first I thought my luck was with me and was about to return my belongings to the other seat until a thirty-something man with short-shaved hair and a t-shirt & jeans scoped me out and found his way to me, sat down, and I thought so much for the comfy ride. But then he spoke to me:

 

“You mind if I ask you a few questions? I’m with the Department of Homeland Security and I’m on a task force designed to eliminate the state-to-state transfer of guns and drugs on trains such as this one…so where did you come from…?” He flashed his badge and showered me with questions. Told him all about the convention, my trip, my books, my authors, and after that intense interrogation I had to lead him to my luggage so he could zip ’em open and go through everything. A skull falls to the floor along with loose metal banner stand pieces and he held his breath for a moment, but I did say I was attending a horror convention. Next he went through my boxes and found the books I’d displayed and pimped back at the con….no drugs or guns….and he shook my hand, apologized for the inconvenience, and disappeared up the stairwell to the level above.

 

All eyes in the car were on me as I returned to my seat, and when I sat down, there was a pause before everyone in the room started asking me questions, the first of which was: “Now that we all know your business, how was theconvention?” I ended up listing my titles, pimping my authors, giving writing advice, and passing out cards….whether I wanted to or not! After awhile they left me alone with my window seat so I could open my laptop and get a little ahead on all the work that would face me with Black Bed Sheet Books when I got home.