Advance Reader Copy Giveaway

What’s an advance reader copy (or, commonly known as ARC)? An ARC is a copy of a book released by the publisher before the book has gone to press for a complete printing. Many times the ARCs do not have the final dust jacket or paper cover, formatting or binding of the finished product; and the text of an ARC might also differ slightly from that of the final published book if the book is edited after the ARC is produced (usually for widows, typos, or to add pages of reviews and front matter). ARCs are normally distributed to reviewers, bookstores, magazines, and (in some cases) libraries between two and six months before the book is officially released.

Low Man, by T.J. Vargo
Genre: horror
Release Date: October 13, 2008



Robbed at gunpoint while working the nightshift at a convenience store, Benny Assissi takes stock of his life. His good-paying factory job is gone—outsourced overseas. His wife sits in a hospital emergency room with his dying son. And there’s a gun under the counter, one he never saw until now.

Determined to gain control over his life, he grabs the gun and runs after the thief. One bullet later, he finds out how precious life is and how far he must go to keep it, even if it means walking straight through Hell.

In the fog of death, he discovers that life isn’t about what you have, but how much you love—and how far you’ll go to see your love again.


“Vargo introduces the reader to tangible characters in the presence of ancient and impure evil. A must read, preferably during the day in a well-lit room.” —T.M. Gray, Author of GHOSTS OF MAINE

“Vargo is a writer who’s not afraid to take chances, a writer who understands how to craft characters with whom a reader can relate, a writer to watch very, very carefully.”—Brian A. Hopkins, Bram Stoker Award-Winning Author

“Vargo is a voice with a certain place in the future of horror.” —David Whitman, Author of DEADFELLAS

“Vargo writes some of the most vividly detailed scenes I’ve read in years. The characters are as real as anyone you’ll meet on the street (and a few you’ll hope you never meet.) Fans of dark fantasy and suspense should rejoice and welcome Vargo with open arms.” —Brandon Massey, author of VICIOUS and THE OTHER BROTHER

We will randomly pick three entrants to receive ARC copies of the novel. Free of charge. Winners don’t pay tax, shipping, zip.

Simply post a comment on this post with your email address by midnight PST on August 22, 2008. That’s it. We will randomly pick three winners, and will contact them by email. If we cannot reach you within 48 hours after the contest ends, we will move on and pick someone else.

–You can only enter once. We employ highly-trained email spies. They will know if you’re cheating.
–You must post your email address. Otherwise we won’t know how to send you the book.
–If chosen, you must respond back within 48 hours or you lose it.
–If chosen, you promise to read the entire novel, and then write a short and honest review about what you thought of the novel, and then email it to us as well as post on The review must be completely honest. If you love the book, please, rant about it. If you don’t, then say so. Honesty is the key here. And there’s no length minimum/max for your review–just…please do a little more than “Love it!” or “This book sucked.”

Again, the deadline is August 22,2008. AND YOU MUST INCLUDE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS TO ENTER!!! Good luck!


A rant about stupid and thankless writers

Yesterday, I took half of the day and did something that I as Editor-in-Chief don’t normally do. I responded to several rejected submissions.

But I even went above and beyond writing a rejection letter. I phoned the authors personally and explained why I was turning down their manuscript. Why would I do such a thing you might ask? Well, I didn’t do it for every manuscript. In fact, I only called four writers that had turned in their requested full manuscripts to give them the bad news, allotting 45 minutes to an hour for each call.

These four manuscripts had made their way up to me for final approval before signing them on, and after reading each one in full I stopped the upward trend of readers and turned them down because of various reasons. But—and there’s a big but here—I made those personal phone calls because I saw a lot of potential in those four manuscripts, they just weren’t quite up to par yet, and I wanted to relay my high opinion to each of them while discussing some points on what doesn’t work in the story and suggest several ways in which to fix them so that they could possibly resubmit.

So why am I pissed?

Okay, as I’ve said before, editors are not gods. We (or at least I) don’t expect potential writers to bow down before us and grovel at our feet, or to hang onto every word we say as if they were manna from heaven. But, editors for the most part don’t have the time—or give a shit enough—to dedicate close to an hour of their already hectic and over-scheduled day to discuss with an author why they are not accepting their book instead of signing a simple letter and having one of their lackeys lick and stamp the envelope.

So, to put it plain and simple, when an editor from any house—be it a magazine, or a small or large publisher—calls to offer advice despite the rejection in order to better yourself and your manuscript, don’t make yourself look like an asshole and just listen.

Two of the writers I talked to were very appreciative, and the constructive discussion was rewarding on both ends; I was able to relay my thoughts on their manuscripts and describe exactly how their manuscript was failing and what it was I was looking for, and the writers were able to ask me questions to clarify my points or get tips on how to accomplish those rewrites. The third writer was stuck on my third sentence of “liked it and saw potential, but it’s not ready as it is so I’m going to have to say no,” and the conversation went in circles and after ten minutes I pretty much gave a “have a good afternoon” and hung up.

The fourth potential novelist brought my carefully concealed claws out to full length. Now, normally I consider myself a very level-headed and poised character, and am able to keep my cool in most situations. But sometimes—and this is another grain of evidence that editors are in deed, human—there are some people that just get…under…your…skin. Not only did the wannabe author cut me off at every sentence, he actually vehemently argued with me that he had hired a freelance editor to work on his book, and that it wasn’t his fault his book was lacking in all of the areas I was trying to fix with him.

… Now, if you were to hire a painter to paint your house, but you give him a god-awful shade of pink bucket of paint and tell him to be creative, can you really blame the painter for your house looking like shit?

No, because it’s your house, and it’s your damn book. So take a little pride and responsibility in the writing (and editing) of it and don’t try to shove someone else under the bus to make yourself look better. It doesn’t help; because it makes you look like an ass.

The writer then went on to argue with me that I apparently didn’t know what I was talking about, because this was not his first book written and, since he’s been published by another small press he knew what was publishable or not, and I was being “petty and overly-picky” in my critique. At that point I lost my cool a bit, because with those words I realized I’d just wasted 35 minutes of my time on a bratty, self-indulged author whom I wouldn’t want to work with anyway, and said a few things that elucidated my status as an editor and his as a half-witted reject. Admittedly, it was unprofessional, and now I feel just a smidgen of regret—not at how the writer might feel, but the fact that I had allowed him to rub me so.

The conversation abruptly ended when he asked me once again whether “I was sure I hadn’t made a mistake, and was positive that this was not a joke and I was not taking his book.” I’d sat on the phone silent for a few seconds thinking are you shitting me? Before simply saying “no.”

“Well, then,” I was answered in a lofty tone. “It seems you just wasted nearly an hour of my time when I could have spent two minutes reading a letter.”

Then the fucker hung up on me.

If I hadn’t been so pissed the situation would almost be laughable—the writer solidifying the bitchy, spoiled writer archetype that editors so hate. But I was pissed, and I still haven’t laughed, because I stewed all evening on how I lost two hours on two ignorant writers who I had sincerely tried to help when I have a slew of other potential authors out there who would jump at the opportunity to speak directly with the editor of a house instead of getting another depressing form letter.

So, while writing is not exactly a team sport, to all you egomaniacal writers out there, quit being assholes by ruing good things for others just because someone stuck a push-pin into your over-inflated pride.

Another sample query letter

Below is another sample query letter from one of our upcoming novels, Damewood: Demons of the Past. This query not only gives a pretty good idea of what the book is about, it is written in a format that makes the reader think about what the author is saying, not just processing the short synopsis.

The best part of this query is that it jumps right into the novel. It does not open with “I would like to offer up for consideration of my novel…” or “My name is Joe, and I have been writing since I could hold a pencil…” By going right into the “hook,” it demands attention and forces our eyes to go on, wanting to read more.

Dear Mr. Ishitani, Acquisitions Editor;

What if, in the not to near future, modern civilization were to come to an end? The technological advances of mankind have flourished beyond the highest expectations, and have escaped the controlling hands of the human race. Cloned humans and genetically engineered creatures prowl the lands, while androids and security systems move beyond the known parameters of Artificial Intelligence, pushing the earth over the edge to a third World War.

What if, though, the world did not understand this? A world that, after a prohibition of science and technology spanning nearly four centuries, had regressed to a feudalistic state unaware of its advanced past. A land that lived in fear of mutated “demons,” of shadowy forests, and of the frost destroying their spring crops. A land where only the secret of society’s past is known by a few trusted officials and mentors—who seem to have their own agenda on the upcoming successions of thrones.

What if there was a young girl who would strike out on a mission to save her kingdom and to find the answer? Nadia, the eldest princess of Damewood flees for her life after the castle is attacked by an underground cult of revolutionaries bent on bringing society back to it’s “roots.” Disguising herself as a knight, she joins a hunting party along with her “demon” horse to put an end to the massacres and retrieve a stolen key that will unlock the mysteries of the ominous Order, and the history of her people.

Cloning, world-ending wars, and futuristic technology has never been more popular as can be seen with recent books and movies such as “Armageddon,” War of the Worlds, and “I, Robot,” my novel Damewood: Demons of the Past takes those stories one step further by delving into the mind of a young girl from a land that turns its back on the ideas of race, country and technology, and is thrown into the midst of these issues with no warning or protection save her sword and trusty steed.

Thank you for your consideration of my novel. If you would like to see the rest of the book, I can be reached via phone or email. I look forward to working with you.


Erin Durante