A Few Simple Things

Cover to Simple Things, an anthologyLots going on the past couple of weeks and plenty to catch everyone up on, but first things first. The blog. No, not forgotten, but tried doing the trendy thing and using Facebook for updates. Can’t stand Facebook, though, the Replies function sucks, so, while I’ll keep sharing stuff there, back to blogging. That blogging is now considered ‘old school’? Well, that’s tech for you, eh?

On to this week’s good news. Couple months back, got a tip on a new horror anthology that was looking for subs. The book’s premise was, ordinary, everyday, simple things that had the potential to be forces of evil. The kinds of things you’d find in a secondhand store, thrift shop, you know the type of place I’m talking about. Well, the summer’s been crazy what with some family issues, some travel (planned & unplanned), things going on here at the house and life in general. I almost bailed out on the story twice. I started a couple of times, things went haywire outside of writing, and it got real iffy for a while.

The good thing was, I had a concept I felt was solid, had a decent idea of where I wanted to go with it, and figured unless I hit the wall deadline-wise, I’d find a way to carve out the time and make it happen, especially because the guy who tipped me is a great storyteller and was going to be running the show. Lo and behold, got on a roll a few days before relatives came to town, stayed up three nights straight to finish the first draft, went three days on 8 hours sleep to get a really good final done, and, even though Pam was out of town (she always sends out my attachments because my software is so out of date), it got there.

I was sent the contract for Simple Things, by Lycan Valley Press, last Friday. Cover appears.well, somewhere in here. Damned if I know. Release date is – you guessed it – October, just in time for Halloween. I’m not gonna spoil anything, so click thru to see who I’m lucky enough to be sharing the table of contents with – it’s an impressive list of fellow sickos. Also have subs out at a couple of other new places, and will update on that as I hear those tales’ fates. In the meantime,  working on two new stories, one that’s likely to go into my next anthology because I’m not sure there’s a mag or publisher out there looking for material this unspeakable, but if any fellow scribes or avid readers are aware of an outlet looking for a story you’d describe in a word as: reprehensible, let me know. Hope all you guys out there are doing well, and enjoying the summer as much as I am.

Currently listening to: “Let the Day Begin” by The Call

All Hallow’s Eve

Tomorrow’s Halloween. I hope you’ve been stocking up on candy, because if you’re lucky, your house’ll be deluged with kids looking to have a good time, get some cool goodies, and show off their homemade and store-bought costumes both.

Every year I make this plea. Every year a bunch of people comment or Tweet to me or e-mail me to let me know they’re on board. So, here goes. If you haven’t stocked up, go out tomorrow, skip your Starbuck’s or brown bag it for lunch, and throw another bag or two into the shopping cart, and load up. There’s a ton of kids out there who’ll be using the same costume as last year, because let’s face it-the economy *still* sucks, people are still woefully underemployed, parents are stressed, and it isn’t like anything’s getting any cheaper.

Halloween Setup at BackStreets

Our Halloween Setup at BackStreets this past Saturday.

See that pic? That’s how our Halloween setup is going to look at the foot of my sister’s driveway tomorrow night. We’ve got two five gallon paint
buckets filled to the brim with candy, and Pam’s gonna kill me, but tomorrow I’m gonna ask her to jump into BJs really quick and see if there isn’t
anything else we can add to the mix. We’re light on Tootsie Rolls this year, so maybe we’ll get lucky tomorrow.

Whatever the case, my sister’s place gets hammered every Halloween. People come from other communities to trick-or-treat hers, because it’s safe, it’s a series of cul de sacs, and because the people there do it up right. Hundreds and hundreds of kids hit the community because if you’re not going to trick-or-treat for more than five hours, you’ll fill your plastic pumpkins and pillow cases to bursting, trust me.

Where I live, there’s barely anybody in the area, so we invest the time and money to go to sis’ place and add to the festivities. Because it’s a kids’ holiday. Sure, I love it like no other. I was always the horror guy growing up. This has always been my thing. But tomorrow night’s about kids looking to get some candy, have fun with their friends, and if you can help some parents out who’re having a rough time by making that kid’s pumpkin or sac extra heavy? Please, do it. There’s few things better in life than hearing, “Wow!” or “Awesome!” or “Look what I got!” as kids walk away from your front door.

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Currently listening to: “Spellbound” by Siouxsie and the Banshees

WALKERS is Coming

I feel so Alfred Hitchcock saying that…and having it be grammatically correct. But it’s true, and right now the release date I’m targeting is October 19th, to coincide with the opening of ZombiCon in Fort Myers, Florida.

Right now, the estimated page count is somewhere upwards of 300, give or take, and it’ll probably include 15 different tales of the living dead, with a bunch of originals, some hard-to-find oldies, and one or two you might have seen if you’ve followed my comics career, although of course, these are the prose versions, and a bunch have never been seen before, even if they were adapted.

It’s a project that’s been a long time coming, and I’m happy we’ll be able to hit a convention whose audience is walking-dead-friendly. And, while I understand e-books don’t usually have illos, WALKERS will have a few goodies for the gorehounds out there, and here’s a sneak-peek at one of them, by good buddy and fellow zombie-lover Shane Smith.

Walkers Illustration

Sneak Peek at WALKERS…

We’ll have pre-order info up soon, but if you’re a Kindle or Nookster, or read on your tablet, trust me, you’ll be able to enjoy this one on a number of platforms.

Feel free to leave a comment, let me know how you like the first illo. I’ll be posting a B/W of the cover image, probably sometime next week.

And now? Back to work. Lot of editing left to do, lot of ropy intestine left to stretch, lot of internal organs waitin’ to be splattered about.

I know. I’m such a tease…

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Currently listening to: Quicksilver by The Cruxshadows


Not-Quite Fictitious Horrors

MonsterthologyFeel terrible about not blogging more, but have been swamped with editing work, as I’m readying a zombie anthology for release in October. That’ll coincide with my appearance at the Ft. Myers ZombiCon (more about that the closer it gets).

Recently, got invited to a Facebook list that posts open markets for fiction. About a year and a half back, I had a story that I’d begun but hadn’t finished, for a classic monsters oriented anthology. I missed that deadline, so let the story sit in the ‘draft pile, figuring I’d get to it sooner or later.

Well, sure enough, I get a post from the Facebook list, calling for classic monsters stories. What better incentive than a new antho to get me to finish up my tale, right? So, I spend a couple of days, beat the thing into shape, run it past several friends and my wife (former journalist and writer for the Texarkana Gazette), and got to the point where I felt pretty good about it. Publication date was November, so figured I had a while to wait before acceptance/rejection letters went out.

Not the case. The deadline for the anthology was fast-approaching, and I got the acceptance notice in short order. Contract soon after. Not bad, huh? Meant that while I don’t often submit to other publications, my last five or six such efforts had all been picked up.

I sign the contract, mail it back, and wait. But not long. Get an e-mail two weeks later, announcing the book is available on Kindle. Wow, I thought. Fast turnaround. Which of course, to a cynic like me, made me wary. My pal Frank Wales, too. He’s also been around the block a time or two, and voiced the same concern I was sharing with Pam that same evening.

Well, here’s how it all ends. I’m about 2/3 of the way through the book, and to say I’m disappointed would be an enormous understatement. I don’t want to burn any bridges, and I don’t want to throw fellow writers under the bus. But this book was most certainly not ready to be released, and it shows on almost every page. Typos. Missing words. Grammatical errors. Punctuation errors of an egregious nature.  I mean…whoa. Things that shouldn’t get past an initial read-through made it into the finished product. Not good.

Listen, I’ve had issues with publishing projects before. When my first anthology came out, I had just gone blind, and only had WordPad to use to write new material. I couldn’t use the function keys, couldn’t handle the editing myself. So, we hired somebody who overstated their creds, and as a result, the book is a piece of crap. (And, don’t even get me started on the jerkoff who wrecked the cover.) The stories? They’re all right. The editing? Absolutely reprehensible. (One of the reasons I’m handling the editing on the re-release myself, and bringing in a pro who’s got a background doing this very job.)

Running spell-check isn’t editing. It never has been, and it’s no substitute for the effort needed to really make a publication ready for readers. This book wasn’t ready. The final few tales might be impressive—I truly hope they are. But with less than 70 pages to go in a 200+ page tome, it’s already fallen too far short of the ideal to make a difference. A Joe Hill story couldn’t rescue this thing now, even though the tale might be fantastic.

The Kindle edition of the book is going for ten bills, too, and for the life of me I can’t see any publisher getting that for an anthology that’s lacking in so many areas, and doesn’t have star talent to make it appealing to readers. There’s some names you may recognize, to be sure, especially if you follow the speculative fiction mags and are familiar with the non-household-name members of the HWA. If you read a lot of e-books in the horror genre, sure, there are folks you’ll know who are in here.

But they’ve been done a disservice by not having a real fine edit done to save them from the embarrassment of mistakes showing up in print that should have been caught by the publishers. When the main character in a story is named Arthur and due to a typo appears as Author (because spell-check didn’t see anything wrong), well… You get the idea. When the formatting for Kindle introduces spacing errors, such as no carriage return between alternating lines of dialogue? Yikes. When dialogue ends with a period inside the quotation marks, followed by a comma and then the: he said/she said/so-and-so yelled? That’s the kind of thing that dooms your effort, no matter how cool the concept or hard-working the creators, or how passionate the people behind it.

I don’t even let my wife see early drafts of a story. I probably go through a dozen before I feel ready to let her take a look. Even then, I run my stuff past guys like Frank, my friend Mike, my buddy Mario (who I worked with for a major publishing company in New York way back when), or other writers I know who are going to catch things. Many of them do. Which usually means, by the time I sub something? It’s either ready, or damned close.  It’s to the point that an editor shouldn’t have to be fixing grammatical errors or retyping the word the because it came out teh when I was first blazing away. That shouldn’t happen, but even the best of writers occasionally miss something in their own work, and that’s understandable. When we write, we’re too close to the story. We’ll mentally fill in a gap or a missing word and not notice. We’ll forget the age of a character mentioned two thousand words back and he’ll be 34 instead of 32 next time.

That’s why everyone needs an editor. And I mean it—everyone. The more pairs of eyes you run your work past, the more chances the little things will get caught before you send something out that isn’t ready for prime time.

I’m not going to tell you not to buy Monsterthology. Read the sample pages. Decide for yourself. Maybe you’ll love it, and you’ll be able to look past the problems because you’re such a die-hard classic monsters fan you just can’t get enough of this type of material. Cool. That’s your call. But I’m in it, and I’m terribly disappointed. Won’t stop me from subbing to other, similar projects when I have a story that fits, because I enjoy this kind of stuff and I have a slew of new, unreleased horror fiction available. It’s always nice to get acceptance letters, and have your stories appear in other publications, so I won’t let this most recent experience slow me down.

Just wish things would’ve worked out differently, because now that anyone can upload something, anyone can be a ‘publisher.’ Now that anyone can put out an e-book, anyone can be an author. Whether or not you’ll be successful? Well, that’s where I think projects like this do more harm than good. The competition is staggering now that the cost of printing has been taken out of the equation. There are thousands of new publishers on the web every month. If you want to carve out a niche for yourself, you’re going to have to be as professional as the big guys. The good thing? That isn’t tough. Invest in the AP Style Guide and learn the basics, put in the hard work making your project the best it can be, and yes, you too can compete with Penguin and Simon & Schuster, etc. Those companies don’t have access to anything you don’t, not insofar as the tools to produce a well-crafted book. There’s no secret to punctuation, to sentence structure, and so on. Unfortunately, a lot of the upstarts will continue to be dragged down by issues of professionalism, not of financial resources or anything that used to be an obstacle to competing in the publishing world. Shame, that, because it doesn’t have to be that way.

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Currently listening to: Bottoms Up by Nickelback