Is an Editor Scarier Than an Oil Spill?
By Mark Justice


What? I’m still here?

I guess that means Goddess of Horror World has decreed that I live to type again. And you get to experience a second visit inside the stuffy, cramped, chaotic brain of a radio announcer, podcaster and part-time writer. Shove aside that picture of Shirley Jackson and the pile of Marvel Comics, and pull up a seat.

(Wait a minute, you say, I’m paying good money for this column. Shouldn’t I get at least a full-time writer? Well, no. First of all, Horror World is free – not that the Goddess would be opposed to charging if she could get away with it – and, secondly, full-time writers are busy, you know, writing full time. So you get me. For free. If you’re not happy with that, I’ll give you a full refund.)

Hmmm. That sounded a little grumpy. Probably because I didn’t hit my word goal today. Let me make it up to you with some comedy.

So this part-time writer comes home from his day job. There are fire trucks everywhere. His house has burned to the ground. But his wife and kids are safe on the sidewalk in front of the smoldering ruins of his home.

“Oh, honey,” his wife cries as she throws herself into his arms, “this is terrible!”

“What happened?” he asked.

“I was cooking dinner when the phone rang. It was your agent. I didn’t notice the stove was on fire and within minutes everything was gone! Our clothes, the computer, my wedding dress–”

“Whoa, back up,” the writer says. “My agent called?”

Thank you. I’ll be here all month. Try the Festering Heart of Darkness.

Along with writing this column, my other two priorities at this time are finishing a novella before the deadline strikes in about 48 hours and completing the edits on my collection Looking at the World with Broken Glass in My Eye.

I still have a lot of words to crank out on the novella, but the edits for the collection have been the more painful task, by far.

My editor on the collection is tough. She’s like the English teacher you hated in high school. On steroids. Reading through her comments on my manuscript had been an exercise in pure, abject terror. I have nightmares about words underlined in red, and those frightening little Word comment boxes filled with stuff like Too passive. Be active! or How can he cry? 20 pages ago he learned he had no bodily fluids. I could not scroll down the page without my hand trembling from dread.

And you know what? My editor has made my manuscript a thousand times better. It’s hard to face up to my mistakes, especially when I make so damn many. I’m glad she’s there to catch them. I also like that, in emails which my publisher forwards to me, she calls me “Justice” and not “Mark”. It makes her sound more like Lou Grant. I’ll bet she hates spunk, too.

So what have we learned today, kids? I think it’s this: no matter how many typos you make, at least you didn’t destroy the Gulf of Mexico with your shoddy safety procedures.

Which brings me to a 100 % Absolutely True Anecdote That has Nothing To Do With Writing or Reading Horror Fiction about that nasty ecological disaster in the Gulf.

I have a friend who is frequently called upon to lend his expertise in matters relating to the ocean. He was asked to serve on a committee of people who are scary smart, to try to find an answer for the oil spill problem. A few days ago, my friend met with a high-ranking government official. He told me about their conversation, which went a little something like this:

My friend:                   Our committee needs to get to the Gulf and see this thing for ourselves.

Our Government:        No can do.

My friend:                   Why not?

Our Government:        We’re treating that area as a crime scene.

My friend:                   If that’s true, then you’ve left the perpetrators of the crime in  charge of the scene.

Our Government:        Uh...

My friend:                   And doesn’t that then make you an accomplice?

Our Government:        No!

My friend:                   Why not?

Our Government:        Because we say it doesn’t.

Ladies and gentlemen, your tax dollars at work.

Brrrrr. Reading back over that 100 % Absolutely True Anecdote scared me worse than the latest Edward Lee novel. Let me try to mellow us out with another joke.

Q. What's the difference between publishers and terrorists?

 A. You can negotiate with terrorists.

Ah, much better.

This has been great, but I have to get back to making up stories about rotting reanimated cowboys.

Next time, I’ll answer some reader questions. Feel free to drop me a line at podofhorror at aol dot com.

Until then, in the words of my late grandmother, be good to each other and don’t stick any beans up your nose.

Mark Justice is a writer, and radio announcer who lives in Kentucky with his wife and cats. He also hosts pod of Horror with the Goddess of Horror World.


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Mark Justice is a writer, and radio announcer who lives in Kentucky with his wife and cats. Drop by the Justice-Wilbanks message board and say hi.

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