Super Teaser

Remember a while back I mentioned that I had sold a superhero story which would be published as a standalone electronic short? That is still in the works, but progress has been made. Final edits have been completed, and I wrote the official synopsis the publisher will use to market the tale:

All Rick Ormond ever wanted was to help save the planet; he never expected to have to do it with his bare hands.

Earning an advanced degree in environmental engineering seemed like the right path for an idealist intent on making a difference. But as obstacles and frustrations mounted, Rick lost his sense of purpose, culminating in a cold, dark night when he hit rock bottom. The same night, he was transformed into Snow Wolf, a super hero on a mission to preserve the ecosystem of Earth against depredation and defend every life it encompasses.

The goal was clear but the means by which it could be achieved were not. Just when Rick thought he had hit upon a positive way forward, he encountered a challenge from an unexpected quarter, one which only he and his unique abilities could hope to oppose – and one which would call into question the fundamental nature of his crusade.

More updates to come as the publication date approaches!

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Hidden in plain sight

My latest Table of Contents appearance comes courtesy of Lycan Valley Press, in their new anthology Final Masquerade – now available in Kindle and paperback formats!

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My contribution to the book, a tale entitled “Another Night in Paradise”, is one of those stories that came together in my head and demanded to see the light of day, even though at the time I had no particular destination for it in mind. Once it was written I shopped it around at what I thought were a few likely markets, but struck out the first few (like, six or seven) times. And then Final Masquerade opened up, in one of those serendipitous moments I truly enjoy when they cross my path. The theme of the anthology … well, let me share the introductory lines of the submission call:

“The world is a masquerade in which we all dance with the devil.” J.L. Russell

Masquerade by definition states: “A false show or pretense.”

Wouldn’t you know it, my story was all about pretense, about the false show of self we present to the world as our identity and the falsehoods we tell ourselves as we struggle to believe it enough to sell it with conviction. My story even had a bit of dance in it, and a touch of the devil as well, in the sense that it was all about criminals, degenerates, strippers, the shows they stage and the deals they make with one another. Yes, it’s a dark one, even before getting into the explicit horror story elements. Probably not everyone’s cup of tea, but as I said, it was just one of those stories with a life of its own, and I faithfully followed where it led me, however bleak the surroundings.

The editor must have noted at least some of those same qualities as I did, since “Another Night in Paradise” made it into the book. I’m looking forward to checking out all of the other ruminations on the theme between the covers, and I hope you’ll give it a spin as well.

Loose serial

I have made reference now and again – here and here and here – upon the release of certain stories to the fact that each one is another installment in the ongoing adventures of Kellan Oakes. But who, you may ask, is this Kellan Oakes fellow, and where did the chronicles of his career begin, and how can one avoid getting lost in the woods when jumping into the latest dispatch?

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Wonder no longer! All of those answers and more have been gathered in one location for your convenience. Presenting the Kellan Oakes mini-wiki, a brief overview of the character, his world, and the published works detailing his exploits. The page will be updated and expanded as future tales are released into the world, so bookmark it today and return to it often!

All the hallows. ALL of them.

Much as I enjoy being feted for being a dad, or patriotic cookouts, or lots of other annual communal celebrations, my two far-and-away favorite holidays of the year are Halloween and Christmas. I reckon that might be apparent if you’re familiar with my work – I’ve been a repeat contributor to the PulpWork Christmas Special for the past couple of years, and not only do I tend to write a lot of creepy horror tales, but one of them (“The Trap“) is actually set at a Halloween party on Halloween.

This year, sadly, PulpWork Press is not putting out a Christmas Special. However, that’s for a very good reason: they are putting out a Halloween Special instead!

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And you can find it at Amazon. If you can restrain yourself, the Kindle edition will be available for FREE download for everyone between October 25th and October 29th. But if the suspense is killing you, or you want to get your hands on the paperback version, far be it from me to stop you. Once again I’ve lent my talents to PulpWork in the form of a brand new adventure of Kellan Oakes (private eye and son of a druid). And I’m joined in this volume by Tom Deja, Josh Reynolds, Joel Jenkins, and more!

If you’re looking for reading material to accompany your countdown to All Hallow’s Eve, the PulpWork Halloween Special should hit the ghoul-loving spot!

Apparel of happenstance

Every once in a while I go surfing around the websites of various publishers, ones that have already put some of my works into print and other ones to whom I have submitted work and from whom I await acceptance or rejection. In the latter case, my reasoning is pretty straightforward. It’s always possible that a publisher might, for whatever reason, choose to use their website as their primary means of communication. Instead of e-mailing individual authors to inform them of their submission’s status, the publisher might update their blog with a message that says something along the lines of “If you haven’t received a rejection notice from the editor of our upcoming anthology, congratulations, that means you’re on the short list! Final decisions should be rendered in the next two weeks!” Which is good information to have. Conversely, it’s similarly possible that typing in the URL of a publisher might lead to a 404 or a This Domain Available advert, which is a bummer but also good information to have, in the sense of letting me know that the piece I submitted is free and clear for me to submit elsewhere. (This scenario literally played out for me last week during one of my periodic web safaris.)

As far as revisiting the publishers I’ve already signed contracts with, the motivation is somewhat different. There’s the notion that a market I’ve cracked once would be slightly more receptive to my future work than any other random publisher, and the non-zero possibility that some new themed anthology has been announced which I might want to take a crack at. But there’s also, undeniably, a bit of fishing for ego kibble. Perhaps the publisher received a rave review for a collection I contributed to. Or, at the very least, I find it comforting whenever I see that a publisher has put out additional books or magazine issues since the one featuring my byline; I like knowing that I wasn’t, however inadvertently, part of the last nail in the coffin of a doomed market.

So on my most recent virtual expedition, inspired by nothing other than the sense that it was getting to be about that time again, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Cheapjack Pulp was now offering its readers a chance to purchase this:

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A t-shirt with the cover of the March 2016 issue of the quarterly emblazoned on the front. Honestly, to say I was pleasantly surprised is underselling a bit. I was delighted because, while I recognize that the cover art is more than gnarly enough to merit the black t-shirt honor, that issue happens to be the one in which a tale of mine appeared, and thus my name is right there. I love graphic tees, I have an embarrassingly large collection of them, and the mere existence of one with my minor claim to fame memorialized on it is kind of a dream come true.

And, again, I serendipitously stumbled upon this collateral bit of marketing, which means in no way, shape or form do I feel obligated to amplify the signal and shill for it. I’m doing so precisely because it amuses me so utterly, and the only way it could get any better would be if I were to someday see a random stranger out in public wearing these threads.

Throwback Thursday – How the West Was Weird (Vol. 3)

This book came out before I started this blog! So since it didn’t get promoted here real-time, I figured it was worthy of the retro spotlight.

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My contribution to the anthology, “Ellie Froggett and the Charnel Pit”, is more or less the culmination of my authorial origin story. So to provide some context, I have to back up a little ways.

I wrote stories for the amusement of my friends, family, and most of all myself, for as long as I could remember. My first experience with submitting something to a publisher was in a high school creative writing class, when navigating that process was part of an assignment. Considering I was an unpolished sixteen year old and sent my work to a well-known magazine, my subsequent form rejection was not entirely surprising, though it did perhaps put me off submitting for a good while. That, and the fact that my dream was to be a novelist and I spent years beginning and abandoning epic-scope works rather than finishing anything of any length which might be submitted anywhere.

I rediscovered short stories sometime in the mid-aughts, probably inspired by a Neil Gaiman collection or something similar. I tackled writing more of my own as a worthy challenge, cranked out two or three in quick succession, and started sending them to likely markets. Not every publisher responded, and those that did unanimously passed on my work, so once again my enthusiasm cooled a bit.

But in early 2011 I got an e-mail from someone who introduced himself as a friend of a friend. Our mutual friend was someone I had gotten to know over various internet channels related to writing and genre fiction. The e-mail was an invitation to submit a story for an anthology of Weird West tales. Under any circumstances, the role reversal of a publisher reaching out to me for my work would have seized my attention, but this was especially fortuitous because it just so happened that among the stories languishing on my hard drive since the most recent Great Publication Attempt of Doom was, in fact, a weird west vignette. So I was able to not only reply to the publisher expressing interest, but to attach a story manuscript for his review. He liked it well enough to accept it on the spot, and later that year I finally had my first table of contents entry in a real, honest-to-ISBN book: “The Demon Wrestler” in How the West Was Weird Vol. 2.

The thing is, “The Demon Wrestler” was in my mind a bit of a trifle. I had begun it as more of a stretching exercise than anything. It’s written in second-person future tense, which I admit is completely ridiculous. But by the time I finished it, I really liked the way it turned out, so I was proud to offer it up. I have always suspected, though, that one reason why the publisher accepted it so readily was precisely because it was so odd; he was putting together an anthology which already had plenty of straightforward, pulpy tales of cowboys and robots or cowboys and dinosaurs, and my little oddity gave the overall collection a bit of spice. So be it, since obviously I wasn’t going to complain about finally getting my work out there any way that I could.

But, when the publisher announced a year or so later that there would be a third volume in How the West Was Weird, I took to the opportunity gratefully. I wrote a much longer and, yes, more traditional cowboy and monster story, although I did shake things up a bit by making the protagonist a cowgirl, and making her Navajo guide a young girl as well, and even the homesteader they encounter who provides exposition an old woman. (I had a daughter by then and wanted her to be able to see herself in my stories, too.) And sure enough, “Ellie Froggett and the Charnel Pit” made the cut, such as it was.

That’s the crucial part of the story, I think. I knew I was writing for a specific anthology, and I knew because of my previous history with that publisher I had a relatively secure shot at being included. That confidence boost not only made writing the story in question easier, it encouraged me to flesh out other ideas for other stories. I had been published once and assumed (correctly) I was going to be published again, and it seemed a manageable enough thing to expand from there into being published again and again and again. Writing for How the West Was Weird Vol. 3 got that ball rolling, and here we are today.

Beware the interrobang, and shun the frumious irony mark

I did quite a bit of proofreading and copy editing over the past couple of weeks. Some of it was for my side-gig as a staffer for Creepy Campfire Quarterly, some of it was double-checking edits made to one of my stories which will be appearing in a new anthology released on Halloween (more on that later this month), and some of it was giving a once over to the galley copy of another anthology I’ll have a story in which should be out before Halloween (again, more to come on that).

I’m enough of a self-avowed bibliophile to readily cop to the fact that, even when I read a book for fun, I read every single word, cover to cover. So when I’m copy editing, I do the same, even more attentively. And every once in a while paying close attention to the front matter and prelims, instead of skimming or skipping them, yields up a gem like this:

Warning: The unusual punctuation of ‽, doing the double duty of
both a question mark and an exclamation point, and ؟, indicating
sarcasm, may appear within these pages.

I love it. Not a Note To The Reader, not a bit of Typesetting Minutiae, a straight up WARNING. Do not proceed unless you are prepared to have your preconceived notions of minimalist punctuation blown away. Truly we are through the looking glass here, people.

If it sounds like I’m mocking the editor or publisher, please know that I am not in the least. I am genuinely, unironically delighted. I very much enjoy being creatively associated with people who care so deeply about the way readers experience their work, down to every last squiggle of inflection. And if employing non-standard approaches catches an unassuming reader off guard, at least they can’t say that they weren’t forewarned.