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.
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.