Been thinking about a TON of stuff lately. Most of it regarding my future as a writer. What I want to accomplish (the crazy, pie in the sky goals), what I'd be happy/content to accomplish (spritzed with a dose of reality), what I want to spend my time doing, where my energies would best be expended. This is pretty weighty stuff, so I'm splitting it into Part 1 and 2.
I recently stepped down as Shroud's Review Editor.
After over five years of reviewing, I simply came to the end.
Satisfied I'd installed a durable system at Shroud, I realized it was
time to leave.
I'm not done with Shroud, however. I've pitched at least two more issues to Tim Deal, The Terror at Miskatonic Falls is on its way, and I'll revisit Hiram Grange eventually. Shroud has become like family, and that'll never change.
Recently, however, I hit a milestone: a phone pitch interview with a senior acquisitions editor at a New York Publishing House.
Then, several months later, I met with said editor in person, discussed
my pitch, and handed this editor a series synopsis, the synopses for
the first two installments plus the first four chapters of each, and a
brief overview of the third installment.
came away changed. This experience clarified many things. First of
all, since the publication of my first story - for cash - four years
ago, I've done okay. Sold five fiction shorts to decent markets for at
least semi-pro pay, six creative non-fiction pieces to very good markets
for really good pay.
Attended Borderlands Press Writers Bootcamp
two years consecutively. Wrote and rewrote and rewrote and rewrote a
pretty decent novella that's gotten good reviews, even notched some
Stoker Recommendations, though it fell short of the preliminary ballot.
Edited a very unique anthology in The Terror at Miskatonic Falls, as well as Shroud's 2010 Halloween Issue.
the way, I attended a few cons, met some awesome people who have not
only been great help, but also great friends. I started receiving some
short story solicitations, so I geared up to write those, another Hiram
novella, some Hiram flash, a novel or two, and then...
Realized that I as happy as I was with what I'd accomplished...I wanted to go further.
So, believe it or not, I actually turned down most of those story solicitations.
They just weren't for me. I also realized that I'd sold myself a lie.
I'll never be a prolific short story writer with hundreds of short
stories to my credit. Just don't have it in me.
things started "happening" for me, I got really excited. Couldn't wait
until I published enough stories for my first short story
collection. My credits were decent enough. Had enough good reviews
and blurbs, and here's the quirk that POD publishing has brought the
small press horror market, for good or ill: the acceptance of a novel
or short story collection through a small or micro horror press no
longer hinges on an author's marketability or selling power. This
sounds like a good thing. More freedom. More open doors to new voices
and fresh writers. It MUST be a good thing.
I'm becoming ever more uncertain of this.
in the case of short story collections. What's the logic behind
publishing a collection of a writer's short stories? The motive? The
more I chewed over this, the less appealing the thought became.
don't publish a collection of your short stories simply because you've
racked up enough "readable", "good" stories published in "good"
markets. In fact, it could be argued (let's leave self-publishing
ebooks out of this, for now), that a writer shouldn't publish his own
short stories at ALL.
A publisher - of any kind, specialty, small, or micro - should approach the writer,
say to them: "We love your work. People love your work. You've done
great things. Won awards. Have a name and a following. We'd LOVE to
put together a collection of your shorts."
This past week Tom Monteleone and Paul Wilson visited my Creative Writing students, conducted a workshop with them.
I'll just say this now: I love Tom and Paul. I love Tom's short work, I
love Repairman Jack, and both of these guys have left indelible stamps
on my writing, thanks to two years at Borderlands' Bootcamp. So when
they asked me to hang out with them and a friend of theirs who lived in
Binghamton, I jumped at the chance.
can't detail that evening here. That will be Part Two. Suffice to
say...it was better than any Con I've attended yet, (except
Borderlands), I kid you not. It blew my mind. Overwhelmed me with how little I knew of genre fiction's past. Most of all?
It humbled me. Left me in awe. And from my viewpoint, that has crystallized the undeniable negative that POD publishing has brought to the horror genre.
lack of humility. Of patience. Why commit yourself to a dream that
will require hard work, patience, and a thick skin? Why work to be
better? Why suffer rejection from those big, bad, uncaring New York
Houses, when we can just self-publish ebooks or publish collections
through small presses?
I'm not slamming small presses. Cemetery Dance, Apex, Shroud,
Thunderstorm and Maelstrom, Belfire, Deadite...all quality publishers.
And places that I'd be happy sending my work, but....
been aiming at the bottom of the ladder (and not in quality, just in
size and distribution and marketing and name). Ignoring the top and
even the middle. Convinced myself I wasn't good enough, maybe. Maybe
impatient, also. Because to hit the top, I need to do two simple
things: WRITE. AND WAIT (and try and try and try....woops. That's like
once wrote a blog entitled "A Fate Worse Than Being Unpublished". In
it, he shared that if he couldn't be published WELL, he'd rather not be
published at all until such a time came that he did publish well.
course, there's no guarantee of hitting the top or the middle. Ever.
Maybe - MORE THAN LIKELY - no specialty house will EVER approach me for a
collection of my short fiction. Very possibly, I'll NEVER land a deal
with a New York House.
BUT I WANT TO TRY.
I'm willing to wait. For however long it takes to happen. I'm willing
to weather as many rejections as it takes. As Norman Partridge asked
recently in some BRILLIANT blog posts about publishing for the newbie writer: "Have you tried New York? I mean, really tried?"
No, I haven't.
I've slowed things down. I'm still working on my novel, but have no
immediate plans to publish it, simply because of THIS awesome piece of
advice, also by Norman Partridge: the only magic bullet in publishing success is the writing itself.
I stepped down from Review Editor, and I've accepted a position as a slush reader.
Isn't this a step backward?
It's a HUMBLING step. One that will teach me SO MUCH about what makes
an excellent short story. I'm also going back to "bone up" on my
horror: Charles Grant. TM Wright. Ramsey Campbell. The Whispers anthologies.
So many others I missed because my focus was too narrow.
course, all my current favorites: Gary Braunbeck. Rio Youers. Tim
Lebbon. Neil Gaiman. Norm Partridge. Norman Prentiss. Nate Kenyon.
Ronald Malfi and Mary Sangiovanni. T. L. Hines and Travis Thrasher. Of course, Tom Monteleone and Paul
Wilson. And I need to check out other folks, like Laird Barron and Tom
Looks like I'm going back to school.
I've got lots of work to do.