12 Suggestions for Post-Ought Literary Magazines

Simeon Berry
Guest Blog Post by Simeon Berry

I don’t have all the answers about the growing divide between print and online magazines, but I do have a few suggestions:

  1. Advocacy of contributors is important. Those of us who were publishing in the 90s didn’t really expect it, but now we’re getting used to it. Guernica is a fine example of a journal who gets the content out there on social media.
  2. If your magazine has a social presence (which isn’t really optional any more), it should have personality. Your social feed should not be a welter of press releases. Those feeds get hidden faster than the people on Facebook and Twitter who only self-promote or thank others for following/publishing them.
  3. For the love of God, please stop driving authors to post terrible photos of their pages online. It just makes the print-only magazines look (rightly or wrongly) like dinosaurs. Rattle (who releases their entire print issue online in stages) and Song Cave (who makes their chapbooks free to download after the edition sells out) are pointing the way.
  4. Make each piece directly linkable by authors. Scrolling through an entire issue of minuscule text is going to lose you readers.
  5. Leverage the power of print to handle exotic text formatting and/or the ability of the net to provide additional content and functionality.
  6. Magazines only have as much prestige as authors think they do. It seems like the majority of well-established authors haven’t migrated to online magazines because they don’t feel like they need to. This is a boon to print-only journals, but it has an expiration date. Up-and-coming writers are beginning to look to journals for what they can offer in a very practical way, rather than who they publish, because online journals are mostly serving their needs better and allowing them to stock their online library of content. The work that less-established writers have online is ending up being the determining factor for whether or not they get readings, solicitations, etc.
  7. Make sure your magazine looks as good as it can on a smartphone and that the work is searchable by Google. See above comment regarding practical considerations.
  8. Make print journals more than just a way-station for poems on their way to becoming a book. I don’t know exactly how to accomplish this, but I’m sure that lots of editors are thinking furiously about it.
  9. Similarly, make online journals more than just annexes to a writer’s Facebook or Twitter feed. I’m also unsure about how to do this, but it needs to happen. (Hat-tip to Rob Arnold for this observation.)
  10. If your magazine has institutional support, either in the form of funds or teaching relief, start thinking about how you’re going to replace that support if it’s withdrawn. This happened to big name magazines, and no one is safe, especially in the age of the corporate university. If you think your prestige is going to save you, think again. Online publishing isn’t free, but it’s much cheaper than print, and college administrators are going to be asking editors why they can’t switch to that model as budgets shrink and online magazines get more prestigious.
  11. We may not like them, but submission fees are here to stay. More and more magazines are using them every year. It’s an easy and labor-free way of generating revenue for magazines, and it stems the massive tide of submissions that come over the transom without fees. In the past, I always felt guilty about sending to a magazine that I didn’t subscribe to and now I don’t, thanks to submission fees. Plus, online magazines don’t really have an effective subscription model in the same way, and I think the past decade has shown paywalls to be very limited in their effectiveness. If you don’t think a magazine has value, then don’t submit. Right now, because the field is so choked with online magazines and the technology/strategies of those magazines haven’t really started to sort out the wheat from the chaff, it’s not as big an issue, but it will be.
  12. All this stuff is happening very fast, so be prepared to forget what you thought you knew. On that note, feel free to quarrel with me! I’m looking for solutions.

About the Author:

Simeon Berry lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. He has been an Associate Editor for Ploughshares and received a Massachusetts Cultural Council Individual Artist Grant. His first book, Ampersand Revisited (Fence Books), won the 2013 National Poetry Series, and his second book, Monograph (University of Georgia Press), won the 2014 National Poetry Series.

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Writeliving Interview – Richard Garcia

Richard Garcia Author

Richard Garcia, aside from being one of America’s premier poets, is a teacher who has had more impact on my writing than anyone else. His voice is still in my ear  as I work, telling me to take risks, to find the poem outside of the poem you thought you were writing. His students — past and present — love him and his impact goes way beyond his righteous books of poetry.

Martin Ott

Who has been a major influence on your writing?

Many writings I would have read in my late teens and early twenties, the coming of age time. Mostly in a more imaginative mode, Spanish, French, and South American. Surrealism and fabulism. But what made me want to begin in earnest was reading Whispering to Fool the Wind by Alberto Rios. It was very much like I had wanted to write when I had written some years before, and although I was not writing when I read his book, it did make me feel like I could get on the right track. I liked his American, Mexican, playful, dark and serious humor.

Can you give us insight into your creative process?

I was at a reading listening to a poet answer that question and it seemed to me that everything she was describing was part of a ritual. Get up at this time, coffee, go to the place, sharpen the pencil, not just any pencil but the #2 such-and-such, now get the pad that you like to write in… So if you do this every day in just this manner every day, she will come, the muse will come to you.

So many of your former students have had successes of their own. How has being a teacher affected your own writing?

By learning to teach I have learned to teach myself.

What is the best advice you can give to a writer finding her/his voice and subject matter?

Try to ignore your subject matter, your obsessions. Suppress the agenda. Go into the place. Your subject matter will be waiting there for you anyway. It may be in an unfamiliar guise or in disguise, and you won’t recognize it. But don’t worry, it will find you. As for voice remember that you are more than one person. You have voices you don’t know about, and they don’t even know each other.

I loved your prose poem book The Chair. Do you have a different process for writing prose poems?

Sometimes I can’t get the lines right, and then I notice that the narrative has a fable-like quality. Then I know it is a prose poem. The prose poem might be pissed. It coulda been a poem or even a story. But now it knows it won’t get to be in those nice lines and stanzas. And even if it is a story, it will be a story in which nothing happens.

What are you currently working on?

I have been finding poems in my laptop files. It is easier to find poems than to write poems.

Have you read anything recently that really got you excited?

Anything by Terrence Hayes. And I found an article I had lost years ago and searched for online unsuccessfully, until now. It is about a strange garden in Italy. Edmund Wilson, “The Monsters of Bomarzo.”

Can you share an example of overcoming adversity to keep your writing dream alive?

Of course there are the heroes that overcome real trouble. As for myself I think of the adversity of the everyday. Even without outside help I can provide my own adversity. I am my own adversity. Having no adversity can be an adversity.

What is something about you that writers and readers may not know?

I can play the jaw harp. I am really a sensitive guy.

About the Author:

Poet and writer Richard Garcia was born in San Francisco and started writing in his teenage years. He is the author of six books of poetry: The Flying Garcias (University of Pittsburg Press, 1991); Rancho Notorious (BOA Editions, 2001); The Persistence of Objects (BOA Editions, 2006); Chickenhead, a chapbook of prose poems (Foothills Publishing, 2009); The Other Odyssey (Dream Horse Press, 2013); and The Chair (BOA Editions, 2014). He has also written My Aunt Otilia’s Spirits, a bilingual children’s book (Children’s Book Press,1978). He is the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Pushcart Prize, the Cohen Award from Ploughshares, the Georgetown Review Poetry Prize, and the American Poetry Journal Book Prize. His poems appear in journals such as The Antioch Review, The Colorado Review, and The Georgia Review, and in several anthologies, among them The Best American Poetry 2005, Touching the Fire, Seriously Funny and The Best of the Prose Poem. From 1991-2002, he was a Poet-in-Residence at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, where he conducted poetry and art workshops for hospitalized children. Garcia teaches creative writing in the Antioch University Low-Residency MFA program. He lives on James Island, South Carolina, with his wife, Katherine Williams, and their dogs Sully and Max.

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Five New Online Magazines You Should Read

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I’m not sure when it happened, but online literary magazines have become a lot like food trucks in Los Angeles. They are popping up everywhere and some of the new ones are deliciously inventive. Below are five new online magazines you should check out.

Martin Ott

Jam Tarts – Hot off its debut issue, Jam Tarts Magazine has delivered one of the best online debuts in recent memory. Very rarely does a new lit mag dial in such a compelling mix of poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and art so quickly. The intent of the magazine is to “question taste” and in doing so delivered some delicious appetizers and entrees from writers such as Mukoma Wa Ngugi, Rachel DeWoskin, Rose Lambert-Sluder, and Richard Hoffman.

The Offing – Promoted as a channel for the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Offing is an online literary magazine publishing creative writing in all genres and art in all media. Its mission is to publish work that challenges, experiments, and provokes, and it actively seeks work from those often marginalized in literary conversation. Representative writers include Juan Felipe Herrera, Maruan Paschen, Matthew Rohrer, and Alissa Quart.

Okey-Panky – Early this year the fine folk from Electric Literature began delivering a weekly online magazine of short, darkly comic, ironic, and experimental fiction, essay, poetry, and graphic narrative. Authors include Heather Altfield, Stephen Dixon, Anne Gisleson, Mark Halliday, and Sharma Shields.

Prelude Magazine – Launching in September of last year, Prelude is a journal of poetry and criticism based in New York and has quickly become one of my favorites. The format is both print and online, with work available on the website. Old guard poets such as John Ashbery mix elbows with the likes of Mira Gonzalez and Michael Robbins, and new work is published monthly.

Then and If – Jessie Carty, the founding editor of Referential Magazine, is back with another interactive online magazine Then and If. The mag is in a laid-back tumblr format and encourages writers and artists to engage with work in the magazine and if they like it then to submit a response in multiple formats (text, photo, video) and in any genre (poetry, fiction, non-fiction, comic, stage/screen). A poem by Amorak Huey kicked off the magazine a couple of weeks ago.

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Writeliving Interview: Aimee Bender

Aimee Bender Photo

I read the short story collection The Girl in the Flammable Skirt after graduate school and I knew immediately that a fresh and important  literary voice had arrived on the scene. I was thrilled to be able to take a UCLA extension writing course with Aimee Bender not long after I read her book and she made an impression on me as a teacher–how to take chances and explore possibilities. Two of the stories in my forthcoming short story collection Interrogations started in Bender’s class. Hope you enjoy insights into her creative life.

Martin Ott

Who has been a major influence on your writing?

How to pick one? Today I will pick William Maxwell, because I’ve taught his beautiful novel So Long, See You Tomorrow many times and every time it reminds me something crucial about plot/absence of plot and how big feelings can revolve around tiny moments.

Can you give us insight into your creative process?

Blocks of time, stopping at a predetermined time even if it’s going well, no windows to look out of, no internet, no coffee shop, perhaps a yogurt.

How has being a teacher affected your own writing?

It supplies structure in my day and the pleasure of talking to smart students about writing which validates my own investment in this strange and wonderful and difficult thing a group of us do! Teaching is social, which provides a useful foil for the solitude of writing. The two acts are so different.

What is the best advice you can give to a writer finding her/his voice and subject matter?

Tangents are useful. Staying on point is not the point, especially in early drafts. Wander, explore, make messes.

How does writing short fiction and novels impact the other genre?

My stories are often longer now that I’ve written novels. Novels have helped train me in scene writing. Stories help with sentences, though sentences are pretty key to novels too. Both are hard and fun in different ways.

What are you currently working on?

Finding a novel.

Have you read anything recently that really got you excited?

So much! The first of the Knausgaard series was fantastic, Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill, and Silence Once Began by Jesse Ball both thrilled me, and I just read the David Shields’ conversation book I Think You’re Totally Wrong and found that pretty fun and stimulating to read, too.

Can you share an example of overcoming adversity to keep your writing dream alive?

All the piles of rejections from journals and magazines I gathered over years. It was a trudge and I felt discouraged a lot. An agent said my stories were ‘little’ in a way that felt very defeating.

What is something about you that writers and readers may not know?

I can play the beginning part of “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd on the guitar. The easy part.

About the Author:

Aimee Bender is the author of five books, including The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake and most recently, The Color Master, a NY Times Notable book of 2013.  Her short fiction has been published in Granta, Harper’s, The Paris Review, and more, as well as heard on “This American Life.”  She lives in Los Angeles.

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Making Time to Write in Our Busy Lives

As a marketing professional and father, scheduling time for writing has always been an area of focus and a challenge.

Every morning, I get up on the early side and begin my day writing over coffee and breakfast to make sure I prioritize it in my day.

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At work, when my schedule permits, I walk to a nearby office park with a view of a sculpture and write while I eat lunch. This happens at least three times a week.

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I am also never without either my laptop or paper and pen (which I even keep in my car). Many times I write during breaks in my schedule, including the twenty minutes it took for my jaw to get  numb during a recent trip to the dentist:

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I have also adopted a daily, weekly, and monthly word count for my novel-in-progress. For the month of February, I’m averaging 250 words a day. I didn’t reach my goal but the accountability helps.

Please feel free to comment and share any tactics that you use to make time in your life for your own writing.

Martin Ott

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Internet Literary News, January 2015

Mark Strand

Here are five literary news stories in January that got me and other people buzzing on social media.

Martin Ott

“Sponsored” by My Husband

Writer Ann Bauer touched a nerve from her article in Salon: “Sponsored” by my husband: Why it’s a problem that writers never talk about where their money comes from.  I read no fewer than a half dozen responses to this. Colette Sartor rounded up a number of different responses to this article along with her own response: Stolen time: writing while financially challenged.

Mark Strand: Living Gorgeously

This link made me teary-eyed. Maybe I’m a softie. Maybe I’m moved by Mark Strand’s recent death and love of his collected poems. Please take a moment and read Charles Simic’s moving article on his friendship with Mark Strand.

Would This Happen to a Male Author?

There was a wave of deserved outrage when celebrated author Colleen McCullough was described as ‘overweight’ and ‘plain’ in an obituary.

Arizona Education Officials Ban Multilingual Poem

In a letter stating that Tucson’s public schools are illegally promoting ethnic solidarity and the overthrow of the U.S. government, Arizona education officials say that it’s illegal to recite this poem in school.

Are You Being Watched While You Read?

In her article They’re Watching What Your Read, Francine Prose expands upon an article in the Guardian on how ebook platform Kobo is reporting statistics to publishers on when customers stop reading their books.

 

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To All Those Writing Late Bloomers Out There

Yes, for those of us who have taken awhile to mature as writers these lists can be annoying: Best Writer’s Under 40, Most Promising Debut Writers, Yale Younger Poetry Prize Winners.

Some of us take longer than others to publish a book. Here is by no means an exhaustive list of what I wrote, sometimes with collaborators, before publishing my first book in 2011:

  • 500+ Poems
  • 30+ Short Stories
  • 6 Novels
  • 12 Screenplays
  • 1 One Act Play

It took me nearly 15 years after graduate school to publish a book. But it took less that 5 years after that to get to 6 books published (or soon-to-be-published).

What has been the difference in my recent publishing success? Simple: I have gotten better as a writer.

I have many writing friends who have the talent and material to get a book published, but have yet to break through. I am convinced that they will, but there is some level of luck involved.

My book “Captive” won the De Novo prize, C&R Press, after being a finalist 20 times in poetry book competitions. I never wavered in my writing, my reading, my submissions, or my belief in myself. This is where understanding yourself and what motivates you as a writer becomes important.

I love the process of writing. It is a part of my life. It is my hobby. My passion. My outlet. My greatest love (outside of my family and friends). While I understand that publishing and readership are arrows on the path to becoming a better writer I have also, at times, been motivated by self-competition, external competition, jealousy, accolades, a need to create art, obsession.

One of my favorite self-mantras is that “Writing is a marathon, not a sprint.” Writers at every age should feel encouraged to continue working in their craft. Success, if at all, may not come or may not come to the level we believe. As long as we believe in our work, we will get better and others will eventually take notice.

Martin Ott

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Writeliving Interview – Edward Hirsch

Edward Hirsch photo

Photo by Michael Lionstar

When I think of poetry, I think of Edward Hirsch. He has had a lasting influence on my writing and reading ever since I had the opportunity after graduate school to spend some with him and other LA writers discussing the works of other poets. I’ve enjoyed his poetry and prose over the years, and I’m thrilled he took the time to share his creative life with us.

– Martin Ott

Who has been a major influence on your writing?

My grandfather, who died when I was eight-years-old, used to copy his poems into the backs of his books. I’m not sure why. After his death, my grandmother gave all his books away, and his poems were lost. When I was in my twenties, increasingly dissatisfied with the coldness of Anglo-American modernism, I turned to some Eastern European poets for guidance. I felt I heard my grandfather’s voice coming back to me in a modified key. I’m thinking of the Hungarian poets Attila József and Miklós Radnóti, the Czech poet Jiří Orten, and the Polish poets Zbigniew Herbert and Tadeusz Różewicz.

Can you give us insight into your creative process?

I try to work every day. I read intensely, respond to the poets who matter most to me, and try to stay inside the feeling of the poem. Every poem is an attempt to work something out—nothing is figured out in advance, either emotionally or formally. I counsel myself to be vigilant and pay attention.

What is the best advice you can give to a writer finding her/his voice and subject matter to write about?

Be brave, go deeper and further. Find models. Try to take your work to its furthest logical conclusion.

After completing Gabriel, such a well-received and personal book of poetry, are you able to share what you’re currently working on?

I’ve been trying to write poems of spiritual inquiry. One is called “God and Me,” another is a variation on a verse from psalm 77 (When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands, and I would not be comforted). That’s the tenor.

What has your passion and advocacy for poetry brought to other aspects of your life?

It has brought me a deep feeling of fulfilling my vocation. It has connected me more deeply to myself while also linking me to other people. I’ve found a community of other people who are also befriended by poetry.

About the Author:

Edward Hirsch has published nine books of poems, including Gabriel: A Poem, a book-length elegy for his son, and five books of prose, among them A Poet’s Glossary, a full compendium of poetry terms.

 

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Best Writing of 2014 – Roundup

Even as I find myself reading Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Brigit Pegeen Kelly’s Song that doesn’t mean I haven’t carefully been tracking the best of 2014 writing lists that have been appearing. Please enjoy this roundup and I hope you take the opportunity to support your fellow writers. Happy holidays!

Martin Ott

Academy of American Poets | Standout Poetry Books of 2014 

Africa Is a Country | Recommends Best Books of 2014

Amazon.com | 2014 Best Books of the Year: Literature and Fiction

The Atlantic | Best Books I Read This Year: Staff Selections

The Atlantic | Best Television Episodes 0f 2014

A.V. Club | Best Comics of 2014

Books Live | The 16 Best “Bests Books of 2014″ List

Book Riot | Five Book Culture Heroes of 2014

The Boston Globe |  Best Poetry Books of 2014

Bustle | 7 of the Biggest Book Controversies This Year

Bustle | 19 Small Press Books You May Have Missed in 2014

Buzzfeed | The 28 Best Books by Women in 2014

Buzzfeed | 19 Best Nonfiction Books of 2014

Dazed | Best Literature of 2014

The Economist: Books of the Year: Page Turners

Electric Lit | Jeff Vandermeer’s Favorite Fiction of 2014

Electric Lit | 25 Best Short Story Collections of 2014

Electric Lit | 25 Best Novels of 2014

Flavorwire | 50 Best Independent Fiction and Poetry Books of 2014

The Guardian | Best Books of 2014: Year in Review

The Guardian | Best Science Fiction Books of 2014

The Huffington Post | 11 Books Strand’s Booksellers Loved Most in 2014

The Huffington Post | Best Books of 2014

The Huffington Post | 2014 Best Books for Women

Hypable | 10 Best Books of 2014

Hyperallergic | Top 10 Art Books of 2014

io9 | Best Science Books of 2014

io9 | The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of 2014

Kirkus | Best Fiction Books of 2014

Los Angeles Times | David L. Ulin’s Best Books of 2014

Mother Jones | Best Books of 2014 

New Hampshire Public Radio | Best Overlooked Books of 2014

New York Public Library | Best Books of 2014

The New York Times | 100 Notable Books of 2014

The New York Times | Best Book Covers of 2014

The New York Times | David Orr’s 10 Favorite Poetry Books of 2014

The New Yorker |  Best Books of 2014 

Newsweek | Favorite Books of 2014

NPR Books | Maureen Corrigan’s Favorite Books of 2014

Oprah (via HuffPo) | Best Books of 2014

The Philadelphia Review of Books | 14 Poets for 2014: The Year’s Best Books

Publisher’s Weekly | Best Mystery Books of 2014

Publisher’s Weekly | SF/Fantasy/Horror: Best Books of 2014

Shelf Awareness | Best Books of 2014

SFGate |  Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of 2014

Slate | Authors’ Favorite 2014 Books

The Telegraph | Best Books of 2014

The Telegraph | Best Young Adult Books of 2014

Time | Top 10 Fiction Books

Up the Staircase (Ocean Vuong) | Best Online Poems from Women Poets of Color (2014)

Wall Street Journal | Best Books of 2014

The Washington Post | 5 Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Books of 2014 

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Novel Insights – Road to Publication

EthanReid_AuthorPhoto

– Guest blog post by Ethan Reid

A few weeks ago Martin Ott asked if I’d share my publication story with his readers. For those who don’t know, Martin and I attended graduate school at USC together and co-wrote a screenplay we pitched to a talent agency. Before that, I had educators along the way who helped foster the idea of becoming an author — and a wife willing to go along with the sacrifices it takes to get there.

In the mid-1990s, I had finished my undergraduate work in English with a Writing Emphasis at the University of Washington in Seattle, feeling like I still had much to learn about writing a novel. My craft wasn’t there yet, and I knew it. It’s been said that while some authors write for the process, others write to get published. I fall into the latter category and knew I needed to perfect my craft, so I entered USC’s Masters of Professional Writing Program. During my time there I met adjunct professors who helped me greatly, worked at a talent agency, and was lucky enough to meet Martin.

After Los Angeles, my path to publication nearly get derailed many times. Saddled with a student loan, I found myself working at KING TV as a news producer. My wife — a reporter at the station – was kind enough to let me shift to part-time work to finish the first novel before we had children. I wrote the second. Took three before one landed.  My son was born somewhere between two and three.

Back then, the trick was still about getting out of the agency slush pile, and as I felt so many queries were not being read, so I began to attend conferences. I volunteered at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association summer conference, working with the agents and editors behind the scenes. I pitched to many literary agents over multiple years, listening to the their reasons for declining representation for the first book, set it aside and wrote the second manuscript based on their feedback. The second MS came even closer to acceptance — by then I was hearing agents tell me I had nearly hit it out of the ballpark, but needed to refine my craft — so I put book two down and started the three novel with their advice rattling about my brain. Book three, The Undying, finally found a home.

Shortly before it did, I had a dozen agents who were ready to see my third novel. I sent the MS out in July in 2011 and months later received the phone call from the 212 area code from one of the agents I had met at the PNWA’s summer conference. I signed with Barabara Poelle of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency and she found the book a home at a new Simon & Schuster imprint, Simon451. My editor, Sarah Knight, acquired The Undying as the first novel for Simon451 and it dropped this October. They’ve since acquired the second novel in trilogy to be released in May, 2015.

This last October, the publisher flew me to New York to attend the NY Comic Con. I was lucky enough to sit on a panel with R.L. Stine. I still work with the PNWA, helping run their agent and editor pitches at th summer conference.   I’m currently editing The Undying: Shades while working on the publicity side of things. It’s all oddly familiar to other authors’ path to publication, I’m sure. Expect to sacrifice a lot. Hope for help along the way. If you want to land an agent, I’d recommend attending a conference. Listen to why the novels are rejected. And most importantly, write a kick-ass book.

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About the Author:

Author of The Undying (Simon451, 2014) and The Undying: Shades (2105), Ethan Reid received his BA in English from the University of Washington and his MFA from the University of Southern California’s MPW Program, where he studied under author S.L. Stebel, Oscar-nominated screenwriter Sy Gomberg, and Oscar-winning screenwriter Frank Tarloff. Ethan is a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Horror Writers Association, and the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. He lives in Seattle with his wife and son.

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