Monday, April 24, 2017

Next Step

Two weeks ago I talked about short stories, some recent sales, about what I've got coming out. I left off talking about a self-imposed publishing hiatus. For anyone who may or may not be following along, this is where I'm going....

I'm eternally grateful for everything which has transpired so far. Ten years ago I sold my first "short" story (read: a 10K novelette) for a flat payment of $100. I followed that up with some enthusiastic but perhaps misguided submissions to token pay/4theluv collections and magazines which, while they didn't exactly help my career, I can't say they hurt, either. I then sold a few stories for semi-pro rates. Right around that time, I also - for a token advance - wrote my first standalone book, Hiram Grange & The Chosen One. Never saw any royalties for that, but hey - I had my first book which didn't suck, which I could peddle at conventions.

I had lots of novel ideas after that. I sat down several times and tried to write them. They fell apart. I tried to sell a few more short stories....

And nothing. After a nice little start (maybe not flashy or impressive, but certainly fun and exciting) I hit a dry spell. Couldn't finish a novel or novella to save my life. Rejection on the short stories all around.

I could've got depressed. Burned out. Defeated. I could've given up. But I didn't. I took stock of where I was, and thought about where I wanted to publish, and where I wanted my short stories to appear. I didn't quit writing and submitting, you understand...I kept right at it, every single day. But I decided I wasn't satisfied where I was. I wanted to aspire to something higher.

So I accepted a submissions reading position with Cemetery Dance Magazine. Started podcasting for Tales to Terrify. Kept writing. And GORGED myself on fiction written by the masters, especially short fiction.

Something happened.

I'm not sure what.

But roughly three years later, I pitched a short story for a collection being put together by a new publishing company named Crystal Lake Publishing. They bought it, and Joe Myndhardt said he loved my story, and expressed interest in publishing a collection of my short work.

I thought about it. They were new, but when I looked at some of the writers they were gathering in their collections and as authors - William Meikle, Gary Braunbeck, Gary McMahon - I decided YES. I pitched my longstanding idea for a linked collection ALA The Martian Chronicles and Dandelion Wine, and Things Slip Through was born. 

I was blown away by the response. Working on that collection was quite labor-intensive. Many of the stories had to be written from the ground up, and they were very much external stories: blatant attempts to write "horror" stories. Even so, they were good, I thought. They didn't suck. I was unprepared, however, for the strong response to Things and its siblings, Devourer of Souls and Through A Mirror, Darkly

However, Through A Mirror was published in June 2015. Devourer, after switching publishers, Spring 2016, and it did pretty well for a re-release. But sales are dropping, and reviews have slowed to a standstill. And I'm not depressed or anything, or suddenly worried about my future. My novella Mystery Road is forthcoming from Cemetery Dance in limited edition hardcover, as is another short story collection from Crystal Lake, Things You Need

But I wonder. A  lot, lately. Is it time to strike onward and upward? Make no mistake, I love Crystal Lake and would be happy to publish with them for the rest of my career, so long as they want me, if I'm never able to land a book elsewhere. It's just that I'm starting to really think about that. Writing a novel exclusively for submission to an agent. Sending my next submission to Kennsignton, or Medallion. 

I'm currently in the final stages of the first draft of my first novel, The Mighty Dead. A limited edition hardcover publisher was initially interested. That was two years ago. I haven't contacted them to check if they  still are, because I don't want to email them again until the novel is done DONE. I already know Joe at Crystal Lake wants it, and to be honest, it will probably end up there. It's too referential to my other works to stand much of a chance at a bigger publisher.

And there's an in-progress novella quartet, Long Night in the Valley, that I'd like to submit to Cemetery Dance's ebook line. 

But after that?

I'm toying with a new novel. A novel I'm think that, more and more, should be written for an agent or bigger publisher only. I'm in a good position to do so. I've got two books coming out next year. Maybe two short stories (one for sure, in the Random House/Cemetery Dance collection). Finish The Mighty Dead and Long Night in the Valley, and I've got a buffer.

So it might be time.

To go away for awhile (not really away, of course) write a novel or two for submission to agents and bigger publishers. Is it an ego thing? A desire for more money? Will I stop writing if I can't sell something to the big boys?

Of course not. But, more and more, I want to try. If I try and it doesn't work out, I can be content where I am. If I don't ever try...more and more, I have a feeling that'll always haunt me. And I'll always wonder.

I'd rather try and find out it was not meant to be, rather than realize I never sucked it up and tried to begin with.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Short Stories

Recently, I made the "biggest" sale of my career - my short story "The Rage of Achilles" to Halloween Carnival, a weekly ebook series which will be released weekly October 2017 from Random House/Hydra, and eventually collected in limited edition hardcover from Cemetery Dance Publishing.  That in itself was pretty mind-blowing, but even better? I'll be featured alongside one of my favorite authors, Robert McCammon....

Now, I know the deal. "Strange Candy" is a reprint, from McCammon's collection Blue World. Still, it's pretty cool. The only author left I want to be featured alongside is Stephen King. We'll see how that goes. For now - and, mind you,  I'm fully aware these stories are all reprints - I've been published next to Neil Gaiman, Peter Straub, David Morrell, Clive Barker and Robert McCammon. Not bad for a kid who never thought he'd write short stories at all.

Because I initially thought of myself as being a "novelist" only. Of course, that was back when I was young and stupid, and imagined myself living in a cabin, writing a bestselling novel whenever I felt like it. Of course, after re-writing the first half of a novel over and over again, I realized the problem: I had no idea how to end a story.  Around that same time, I read King's  On Writing for the first time. One of the ideas it proposed: picking up freelance nonfiction writing gigs, writing short stories, reviews...anything you could find. 

So I started writing short stories, if for nothing else than to figure out how to end something. One character, one POV, one plot line to resolve. Several were rejected, which stung, of course, but like Bradbury said once, "You figure they're (editors) all idiots, of course, and don't recognize your genius, so you keep on writing." I eventually sold my first short story "Way Station" (of 10,000 words) for $100 to The Midnight Diner

I placed several stories after that in "4theluv" or token pay anthologies. Along the way, I wrote my first solo book-length work, a novella, Hiram Grange and The Chosen One. Then, a few solicited stories, still token rate, but folks asking me for a change. Eventually, I sold a few for semi-pro rates.  And slowly, for some reason, the guy who'd only ever wanted to be a novelist become focused on writing short fiction, reading short stories like a junkie mainlines crack.  

During this time I experienced a little publishing dry-spell, but kept writing but most importantly, reading. In one mind-blowing summer I discovered the Whispers, Shadows, Borderlands anthologies and the Year's Best Horror series edited by Karl Edward Wagner, and read 198 Bradbury short stories, two or three each day (I'm an English teacher by trade, so this is what I call "Summer Professional Development").

And then I sold my first pro-pay short story, "Scavenging" to Chiral Mad 2. For the first time, my work was appearing with folks I considered mentors. Then, lighting struck twice: I received my first pro-pay solicitation, which I nailed in "The Black Pyramid" for Shadows Over Main Street. The following summer, I experimented with writing a story a week. I produced eight stories, but ironically, all of them turned out to be novellas except for one, "Out of Field Theory", which was solicited for Shock Totem Magazine's Halloween Special. Those other novellas eventually became my third book, Through A Mirror, Darkly.

And then, I received my second pro-pay solicitation, which I landed after a requested re-write, "When We All Meet at the Ofrenda" for Gutted: Beautiful Horror StoriesAfter that, I wrote a short story called "The Office" and managed to sell that for semi-pro pay to Beauty of Death. My third pro-pay solicitation was the Cemetery Dance/Random House gig, and I'm waiting to hear back on my fourth pro-pay solicitation.

Here's the thing: I don't really consider myself that good at short stories. On my own - sit down, think up a story, write it - I'm okay. I'm solid. Decent. But the stories of mine which seem to "spark" are the ones which were solicited. I don't know why. Maybe there's an increased level of confidence, knowing someone wants my work. Maybe my writing is sharper when I've been solicited to write a certain type of story for  a certain type of anthology. I dunno. But I rarely sit down and write short stories for the sake of doing so, and even when I try - like that one summer - they always end up being novellas. I only do it when I've been solicited.

Which is cool with me. I have two more on the docket - one due next September, the other the  following March.  I'll pretty much write whatever, so long as it's something I can make into a "Kevin Lucia Kind of Story" (whatever that means).  Of course, there's also the fear that, once I've been solicited....what if I blow it? What if I submit a story, and it's  not what the editor is looking for? I never assumed a solicitation meant a guarantee, but as I've been fortunate enough never to have a solicited story rejected...it just never occurred to me it might.

Which leads me to next week's blog post: writing THAT novel. The one you send to an agent, or submit higher up the ladder. I have a book coming out Fall 2017 and and another in Spring 2018. I have a short story coming out October 2017, and hopefully another this summer. It may be time for another publishing dryspell, this one self initiated, to see if I can make a jump to the next step.

More next week....
 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Forks in the Road


This morning, instead of writing, I decided to take a nap. I mean, why not? I'm finishing a novel that's not on deadline. At one time a limited edition hardcover publisher was interested, but it's been three years because the third act fell apart on me so I put it aside for a year and half, so who knows if they still are. If they aren't, because it's so heavily dependent on my Clifton Heights mythos, I'll offer it to Crystal Lake, who, I'm sure, will take it, so long as it's not trash. 

But no deadline, so why push myself? I was tired this morning. Didn't feel it. And it's not like I've been lazy. I only take a nap break like this morning's every few weeks. Yesterday afternoon I spent working on nonfiction columns with deadlines (though those are admittedly flexible). There's no contract, no publisher waiting on me, and it's not like the masses are clamoring for the first Kevin Lucia novel. So I took a nap instead of writing.

There are other extenuating circumstances, of course. Like having to grade state assessment tests for the next three days at the day job. Having that loom over me made taking a nap this morning preferable to writing. Which, of course, only makes me wonder...

Will I ever be able to write novels on a contract? This is assuming, of course, I ever get the chance. I like to think that, having been paid an advance, and with an obligation, I'd finish. But then, taking the morning off would probably not be an option.

I want to find out, though. Or at least try. If I don't...I'll never know.

*
This morning, I received the lowest royalty statement since Things Slip Through came out, November 2014. It makes sense, of course. Things is four years old. Through A Mirror is two years old. Devourer is three years old. Reviews have slowed to a complete stop. Devourer has finally dropped below the 1K mark on Amazon rankings. Things feel like they've come to a standstill.

Of course, not really. I recently nailed down a huge sale to Halloween Carnival, to be published in ebook installments next October through Hyrda/Random House  and limited edition hardcover through Cemetery Dance. And my next book, Mystery Road, is forthcoming from Cemetery Dance.

Really, it's just time for a new release. Things You Need is waiting at Crystal Lake. They've grown since my last release with them two years ago, their reach expanded. Of course, they're also publishing many more titles. Will that mean less attention for Things You Need? This is not to imply a faltering confidence in my publisher. Crystal Lake and Joe Myndhardt are standouts in the small press, and Joe works harder than just about anyone. But honestly, I would be lying if I said these things haven't been on my mind, lately.

The time has come for a change. An agent? Submitting to a larger publisher? For both those things, however, I need a standalone novel not so reliant on my mythos. That will take time. And I want to make clear: I'm not consumed with big time success. Bottom line is, I've been blessed in that I've reached many of the goals I set for myself when I started all this. Commercial publication is one I haven't. Maybe I'll never reach it. If I try and fall short - well, at least I tried. If I don't ever try? That would bug me, for sure.

*

So the last four short stories I've written have been solicited for pro pay anthologies. I have two more waiting in the wings, due September 2017, March 2018. Definitely a first for me. I've nailed three of those. I'm waiting to hear back on the fourth. I feel moderately confident in the story, but honestly, that's all I ever feel for each story. In my mind, best case scenario is the editor won't reject the story outright and will ask for changes which I'll happily attempt to make.

Which makes me wonder. What happens if the editor does reject the story? That would be another first; having a solicited story turned down. I mean, it must happen, right? An editor requests a story, author turns it in, the story is functionally sound, just not what the editor had in mind? None of this is personal. 

But how will I react? Will I brush it off and keep moving? Will I lick my wounds for a day? Will my very unsteady confidence implode?

To be honest - and this sounds stupid and shortsighted - that a solicited story could get rejected outright never occurred to me. I never assumed they'd be accepted outright, either. But I never thought about them getting rejected.

And that's basically me this morning. Standing at a crossroads which isn't quite as simple as a fork in the road. I'm not complaining, and I'm so happy and thankful for all I've been allowed to accomplish. It is what it is, however. And for the first time in awhile, I feel like talking about it.

More next week.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Road Ahead


I miss blogging.

For a long time I felt like I had things to say. All of it random, of course, about my life, our life, writing, teaching, reading, my son's autism, whatever was on my mind. And then, a curious thing happened. Well, several curious things happened. 

1. I started getting busier as a writer. I picked up a quarterly column with Lamplight Magazine - Horror 101examining the development and evolution of the horror genre. I picked up several submissions reader gigs, eventually leading to my gig as Reviews Editor for Cemetery Dance Publications, and then I picked up a column for Cemetery Dance Online, "Revelations."  Also, the pace of my fiction writing has picked up. More short story solicitations, and though no "deadlines" for longer works, a steady publisher willing to publish my work, so the motivation to get work done, get it out there has increased. So I'm way busier as a writer - earning some cash here and there - giving me less and less time for blogging.

2. I decided to spend more time with my family, less time in front of my laptop. For the most part, for many personal reasons, I've limited myself to writing an hour a day, in the morning, especially fiction. Occasionally I spend Sunday afternoons on my nonfiction work, but for the most part, that left little time for blogging also.

3. Quite frankly, I'd run out of things to say. Honestly, I wasn't sure I had anything left to talk about, and it felt like all my questions about writing were getting redundant. Who wants to read the same navel-gazing over and over?

4. Does anyone still read blogs anymore anyway? Seems like everyone is posting their missives on Facebook. It got to feeling like blogs had become obsolete. 

So.

Am I blogging again?

I'm not sure. Number 1, 2 and 4 are still issues. But number 3...

Well.

I've got questions, again. About my future as a writer. I've turned in my second short fiction collection to Crystal Lake, Things You Need, I'm finishing my first novel The Mighty Dead, and it'll probably go to CL, and maybe a limited edition hardcover publisher, if they still want it. Mystery Road is due out from Cemetery Dance, and there's a waiting novella quartet, Long Night in the Valley, which I'd also like to pitch to CD's ebook line, and then...

I dunno. I'm happy with how things have turned out, and if I never publish anywhere else, I'll be reasonably content. But I think I want more. Or at the very least, I want to try for more, if only to see if I'm capable of it.

And there's been a renewed focus on my faith the last two years. I wonder where THAT will take me, not only life-wise, but writing-wise. I'm not about to start writing Amish Romances any time soon, or Ted Dekker knock-offs...but how will this change me as a writer?

I dunno.

And I still have lots of questions, about myself, about writing. For example: I've hit a nice run in which my last four short stories have been solicited. I've nailed three of the four. The fourth I'm still waiting to hear back on. What if it ultimately isn't to the editor's tastes? Will I suck it up and keep moving? Will I take the rejection personally? Feel bad, retreat for awhile, lick my wounds, then pick myself up? Or will my newfound and admittedly fragile confidence implode? It's like, the more success I experience...the more questions I have.

SO. Maybe I'll blog once a week. Or maybe this post will fade into the distance, and I'll be too busy. All I know is I feel like I'm entering another transition phase in my "career," and I'm unsure where it will lead. Maybe I'll talk about it some, and if so,  you're welcome to listen in.

Friday, September 30, 2016

I'm On The Horror Show

As I mentioned in my cover reveal of Mystery Road, my forthcoming novella from Cemetery Dance Publications, there are certain watermarks you set in pursuit of your writing career. Since its inception, I've thought often how I would love to appear on The Horror Show With Brian Keene

Well, last night it happened. My interview, recorded with Brian Keene last week, aired on The Horror Show. We talked about my writing inspirations, mixing writing with my faith, balancing all that with a family and a teaching career. Check it out on Project IRadio here.


Author Kevin Lucia discusses Christian horror fiction, developing an interconnected mythos, and balancing a writing career with a family life. Plus, our first prize giveaway, Herschell Gordon Lewis and Robert E. Weinberg in remembrance, John Carpenter breaks his silence on Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN remakes, James Patterson backs down from Stephen King, THE EXORCIST bombs, a plea to Elon Musk, and Dave and Brian debate the second season of MR. ROBOT.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

"And I Watered It, In Tears" Becomes the Radio Play "Drowned."

A few years ago, after reading Danse Macabre by Stephen King, I looked up all the old horror radio plays he talked about - Dimension X, Quiet, Please; Inner Sanctum Mysteries, Dark Fantasy - and, to my delight, found them all archived on the internet in mp3 format. For two years, I downloaded and listened to every one I could find, loving them, all the while lamenting their passing. A thought occurred to me one day, however: "Podcasting offers the potential to bring this all back."

And today it has, thanks to Lamplight Radio Play, with the radio dramatization of my novella, And I Watered, In Tears, which first appeared in the debut volume of Lamplight Magazine, and eventually in my novella quartet, Through A Mirror, Darkly. Here it is with a full cast, sound effects, and all the trimmings: "Drowned." Enjoy!

Monday, September 12, 2016

DANCING WITH SHADOWS – THE CHARLES L. GRANT BLOGATHON - Oxrun Station

My first contribution to Neil Snowdon's Charles L. Grant blogathon.

It was Charles Grant's Oxrun Station novella quartets which did it for me.

I first discovered Charles Grant when, after reading Norman Pretniss' wonderful novella Invisible Fences, I read Douglas Clegg's blurb for Fences, comparing Norman to some guy named Charles L. Grant. I thought to myself, "If this Grant guy is like Norman Prentiss, I should check him out."

My first several Grant novels I enjoyed. The Grave, For Fear of the Night and Stunts. However, it was the Oxrun Station novella quartets - The Orchard, Nightmare Seasons, Dialing the Wind, and Black Carousel - which grabbed me by the throat and wouldn't let go. The poetic, tight lyricism of his prose. The subtle, creeping atmosphere. The quiet, looming dread. And the strange town where some people, unfortunately, go missing and are never found, ever again. Or go mad. Or lock themselves inside their homes and never come back out. 

And, always, there was the prose:

"Winter...and rain.

During the blade-sharp of January a cold-snap, during the hours when snow immobilizes and breath turns to short-lived fog, there are the dreams of summer, of green, of walking with no particular purpose except to savor across the playing fields of the park beneath hickory and ash and white birch of such luxuriantly thick foliage that even the still air seems hazed with mint. In part it is a steeled defiance of numbing temperature that reduces animals to hibernation and man to bitter complaint; and in part it is a hypnotic gesture to the pleading of one's senses for an earnest reassurance that this sort of weather will not last, that there will indeed be a time when warmth beyond the hearth is a reality in spite of the fact that it seems now like nothing more, and nothing less, than attic memory.

But there are worse times than the cold.

And there are worse illusions than memory." - Nightmare Seasons

Oxrun Station joined Greentown, Illinois, Castle Rock, and Cedar Hill as one of my favorite fictional small towns, and in some ways, the best of all of them: Grant was able to masterfully weave his Oxrun Station novella quartets, novels and short stories together without ever becoming too self-referential. Credit this to his subtle touch, I suppose. If you've never read an Oxrun Station story before, side characters seem simply that. But if you're steeped in the town, everything takes on a larger, darkly transcendent meaning. 

And of course, like a true addict, I had to collect all the Oxrun books. I devoured them. I still re-read them today. They have had a profound effect on my work and my own mythos; an impact exceeded only by Papa King's.  

Grant never revealed exactly what was wrong with Oxrun Station. Perhaps he passed away (too soon) before he could. Somehow, I'm glad he never did pull back the curtain. Oxrun Station is a just a strange, out of the way - maybe lethal - town, and that's just the way things are.

But he wrote about more than Oxrun Station. Tomorrow I'll talk about that.