W. P. Johnson

Archive for 2017|Yearly archive page

The Road to Publication VIII

In Uncategorized on November 14, 2017 at 5:53 pm

On the first floor of my house, it’s freezing (finally). I’m tired and sore. My feet hurt. I’m not too psyched about my current job, but I need to work to sustain myself. Everything feels kind of pointless. Jesus, even the nice stray living on the street just hissed at me and scratched my hand. I mean, what the fuck?

But it’s weird. I keep writing, I keep pushing forward. I don’t even know why sometimes, aside from generally enjoying it. The notion of getting a book published now seems alien to me only because my previous failure was such a slap in the face of my own hypothetical expectation, completely severing me from the notion of hope or wishful thinking. I now assume all efforts are futile, but I make them anyway for the sake of the thing itself. Is that what makes a writer a good writer? I don’t know and I don’t care. I just want to tell some stories and hope people enjoy them.

It has me thinking lately. Most traditional professions have a path way to them. A doctor goes to med school, becomes an intern, or whatever, then does… I’m not sure what, because I’m not a doctor and I don’t know off hand the requirements that a doctor needs to meet in order to cut me open and perform surgery. Sacrifice their first born? Sell their soul? This is all to say that if you do X, Y, and Z, you will become a doctor. Same with becoming a lawyer, or a roofer, or a teacher or a garbage man.

The arts are an unusual profession because there’s no path. You can write or paint or sing or whatever it is you do, and you can do these things every single day and never get anywhere with it. You can go to school for it. You can win contests and awards. You can be really great at these things and still not get any traction while hack after hack around you gets another three-book deal. But we do it anyway. At least, I do. And I wonder if that is what truly separates the guy on panel at whatever writer’s conference we pay 100$ to attend from the person who paid said entry, thinking to themselves, this is what will give me a leg up in this business.

Dude… you’re in for a long ride.

I digress. I try, still, because what else am I going to do? Not write? Not create? I remember telling my wife I didn’t know if I could live if I couldn’t write, and while she took it to mean that I’d commit suicide if my book didn’t sell (which she was right to think), what I really meant and believe is that the simple pleasure of creating something out of nothing is one of the few reasons I get out of bed every morning, is one of the few reasons I don’t drink as much anymore, one of the few reasons I think it will be nice to, someday, retire and just type away on my laptop on whatever beach hasn’t been swept away by climate change.

So I started another book.

To avoid some of the mistakes I made in my last book, and to avoid spending two years making them, I decided to write a comprehensive outline. Having just completed a script and a pilot, I decided to outline it as a script first. There are a handful of reasons for this, but namely I wanted to get feedback on my script and evaluations were cheaper than they would be to get feedback on a full book (we’re talking 100$ vs 1,000$). I also felt that the script format would help me write a more concise plot break down and narrow my scope moving forward, avoiding unnecessary sub plots and back story.

I wrote the script, titled “The Magnificent” in about two months, writing the third act while flying home from Japan, sleep deprived and two complimentary gin and tonics later. After letting it cool off for about two weeks (though I should’ve gone a month or two), I rewrote it, cleaned it up, and submitted it to Screen Craft for their second tier evaluation package, costing around 250 dollars (this is, mind you, still less expensive than submitting the finished novel to a professional editor). For this, I would get about five pages of notes on my script, outlining the pros and cons of the script, market potential, ect., and a score break down of my plot, dialogue, character development, yadda yadda yadda, providing me with of overall score between 1-10. Scores above 8.7 would be featured in their private data base for industry people to access. Obviously, that will never happen, what with my previous scripts having scored around a 6 and a 5, but it was nice to have a goal in mind and something to strive for if I decided to keep writing scripts.

I submitted my script. About a week later I got an email that the feedback had been completed. I sort of hissed, held my breath, and clicked on the link to see what they didn’t like about my work, fearful the overall score would dip even further into the 4s and the 3s and that I would have to scrap the idea and try something else.

It scored an 8.8. Literally just enough to be featured on their private data base.

They said, “The Magnificent is just that… magnificent.”

I pinched myself. I let the high cool off. After all, nothing more really came of it. There were no emails, no offers of representation, no options made. I mean, how private is this fucking data base? Before long the self loathing resumed its proper place, a seat constructed by all my previous failures and shortcomings. The beast proclaimed with confidence that this was just a fluke, a dangling carrot that Screen Craft used in order to keep me chasing some mysterious outcome that would prompt another paid evaluation.

Still… a part of me wondered.

They gave me some critical feedback, things they felt would make the script better. I gave it another go over, submitted it to a contest they were featuring, then sent it to the Black List. For people who don’t know- the Black List is a more established brand as far as script evaluations go, with high scores leading to development deals, agents, and managers. Similarly, they’re a tougher nut to crack, with many writers having claimed to have won script contests and gotten glowing reviews from other script websites only to take this same script to the Black List and get a 4/10. In short, I felt that their evaluation was the real test in terms of quality, which is to say that a bad score wouldn’t necessarily mean the script was bad, only that a good score would reaffirm the evaluation I received from Screen Craft.

I subbed it, I waited. Compared to Screen Craft’s swift turn around time of about a week, the Black List clocked in closer to a month in order to get my first evaluation. Like Screen Craft, they offered perks for scripts that scored high, notably that any script receiving a score of 8 or above would receive two additional evaluations and free hosting on their site for two months. In addition to that, it would be featured as a trending script and sent out in an email blast to industry members, encouraging downloads, etc. Mr. Self Loathing did not think that was possible to score that high. Few scripts scored above a six, let alone an 8.

Three weeks later, my script was downloaded. A week after that, two emails arrived in my inbox. One, announcing that my evaluation was now available to read. Two- I had scored high enough to received two more evaluations and free hosting for two months.

Overall score- 8/10.

It was a weird experience. At this point in my writing life, I couldn’t allow this success to make me feel good. Sure, it was nice and it took me out of my funk, affirmed that this story I was working on had some objective value to it, as objective as a person can be about story telling. But unlike previous successes in searching for an agent, I didn’t allow myself to indulge in what this all meant hypothetically speaking. I didn’t start telling everyone in my head that I was on my way to being signed by an agency and that I was now a script writer. I didn’t start spending emotional currency I hadn’t earned yet.

I just looked at the score, cashed in my free evaluations, and got to work on the next story.

So… maybe something will come of it. Maybe nothing. As of today, three days after the evaluation went live, I’ve had about six downloads from mysterious industry professionals, and over 30 views of the script page. Will those industry people reach out to me? Maybe. Maybe not. Or maybe they will and they’ll sign me and the script will just die a slow death and I’ll still be bartending for a living. Or maybe they’ll sign me and get me work as a writer on a show, or a development deal. Maybe this, maybe that.

In the end, who fucking cares? I had a lot of fun writing The Magnificent. I hope that, someday, people enjoy reading it, or that they get to watch it in a theater or on Netflix while drinking a beer and relaxing for the night. In the end, it’s not where the path takes me, it’s enjoying the path for the sake of the journey. And maybe, after all is said and done, it took me this route for a reason, and failure eroded my sense of hope because it was distracting me from the very thing right in front of me: the act of story telling itself.

That said, it would be pretty goddamn awesome if it was made into a movie.

Until then, here’s to being scary.

Advertisements

The Road to Publication VII.

In Uncategorized on October 17, 2017 at 8:02 am

I no longer have any agent.

Ah, the bandage has been pulled. And what a painful one it was.

I could go into all the details, the minutia, but the long and short of it is that I was very unhappy with the provisional representation I had received by an agency I shall keep nameless for reasons giving them the benefit of the doubt. In the nearly six months I had been with them, there were no revision notes, no interest in my other work, and no plans on where to send the book. Maybe I would’ve been proven wrong, but I was starting to lose respect for myself and could no longer continue the relationship to the extent I had started looking for new representation before even officially ending the old relationship. There were a few bites, some so goddamn close I could taste the “yes”.  In the end, it was passes, all claiming that while they loved “X”, they couldn’t quite get behind “Y”.

It hurt. It hurt because I had spent so much time with these characters, I don’t want to believe they’re not going to see the light of day. Maybe, someday, they will (there are, after all, a few publishers I can pitch directly when they open for submissions). But for now, I’m no longer pitching A Song For John to agents and have started a new book.

There is alot I can say about the process of starting another book after having finished and unsuccessfully pitched a completed novel, but I don’t know if it’s helpful. Truth is, it’s simply what every writer says- you don’t sell your first book. And like most writers, I convinced myself I was the exception to the rule only to learn that the rule is law. You don’t sell you’re first goddamn book. You just don’t.

Joe Hill, whose work I truly admire, talked at length about not selling his first book. He asked his mother, ‘what do I do now?’ to which she said, ‘write another book’. I ask myself a similar question. “What do you want to do?” And yes, it’s the same corny trick used on Micheal Scott in The Office when he is debating whether or not he wants to stay with Jan. So I ask myself out loud, “what do you want to do?” and keep responding, “I want to write for a living”. I want to create. I want to tell stories. And while I know it’s a hard road, I’m learning to find balance, to not let failure poison my daily life. I’m learning to enjoy writing for the sake of writing and validating the act of writing by its own merit regardless of what becomes of my work. No story or book is a failure if it leads to something that does work. Even my wife said to me, “write another book, if this is what you want to do”.

As to the new book- I’m trying a different approach to avoid writing another bloated 200K epic. For starters, I’m outlining the fuck out of it by writing it as a script first. This has proven very helpful in keeping it brief, and after less than two months, I’ve managed a tidy draft of the new book’s “outline”, what I’m tentatively calling The Magnificent. It’s about a woman whose father commits suicide under strange circumstances, after which she begins to experience unusual dreams and night terrors. Her husband believes it’s demonic possession, that this may be what prompted her father to commit suicide. Being an atheist, she doesn’t quite buy it, but then she’s recorded saying and doing things she doesn’t remember, her husband convinced this isn’t just a case of bad sleep.

Well, I could say more, but I don’t want to spoil it. It’s a horror/thriller mash up, and I think it’s pretty goddamn good. I know it’s been fun as hell writing, and maybe, after everything is said and done, it’s exactly what I needed. It’s certainly helped in moving on.

Other than that, the collection of short stories is coming up sometime next spring/summer (christ, I keep forgetting that exists). I’m writing short stories here and there, tinkering away at some film ideas, and will probably begin a draft of the novel this winter in hopes of finishing it by Spring/Summer. With a tight outline, I think I can probably finish a draft within 3 months. In fact, I’ve debated taking a week in the Spring to see if I can lock myself in a hotel room and write it all out in one shot, likely with the assistance of caffeine and whiskey. But that is something that will come to pass when it does.

Until then, here’s to being scary.

Drink Up

In Uncategorized on July 21, 2017 at 7:25 pm

I’m hungover.

I mean, I am painfully, skull crackingly, sit down to pee and cry, vomitingly, perhaps even dangerously hungover, so much so that I am googling whether or not it’s possible to die from a hangover. Unfortunately it is not.

My tolerance ain’t what it used to be and in recent months I’ve dropped a few pounds, making it even harder to slam back shots and beers like I did when I was in my twenties (I mean, how the hell did I drink so much back then?). But I sort of knew what I was getting into. I went out to meet a friend of mine, ubering there as to not risk driving later, with every intention of getting kind of lit because I hadn’t done it in such a long time and started to feel like maybe I was missing out on something or losing my edge only to find out that whatever I may have missed out on probably happened during the eventual black out I experienced and if I ever had any edge to begin with, what remained was lost in the uber ride home. Thankfully I had my wallet and phone on me. But not the capacity to hold my lunch, nor any kind of mental capacity to express whatever horror I was experiencing as I moaned and screamed at midnight and was thrust into a cold shower by my wife to somehow sober me up and freeze the crazy out of me. The cat was afraid of me the next morning, but don’t worry, we’re cool now.

Still… it was fun. I hadn’t really cut lose in a long time and it was good to see my friend and just bullshit and catch up. Plus, I had given myself a reason to drink, which is that of having finished a pilot episode for a show idea called “Train Tracks” (you might remember the short story with the same name). Prior to that I had finished a full length feature for Dream Dress and will know soon whether or not it’ll make the first round of cuts for a horror script contest. So, what the hell- drink up.

Just not today. Today, I take shots of Gatorade.

In other random news, the novella of Dream Dress is selling okay for a self published novella (about 3-4 copies a month) and occasionally there’s a spike in the sales rank, which tells me someone just bought a copy. I’m hoping it starts to pick up some more steam soon and gain some kind of popularity amongst lolitas who inspired the story to begin with, but these things take time. After all,  as far as I know, I’ve written the only lolita based horror story in existence, so unless every lolita hates horror and spiders, I think it’ll start to find a small audience and hopefully that same audience will follow me to The Eight Eyes That Watch You Die when it’s finally published next year. I just hope all those lolitas don’t mind the lack of ruffles in my other stories.

The pilot for Train Tracks has been submitted to screencraft for notes, and I think it’s some of my best script writing so far and sets the stage for a lot of great storytelling. After I write another chapter for Possessed, I’m going to take a crack at another feature, then another pilot. Screenwriting has been very rewarding and oddly more fun than regular writing. I don’t think it’s something I’ll give up any time soon.

My provisional agent has yet to respond with revision notes, but like the ground swell of sales for my novella- these things take time. I’ll admit it though- I’m nervous. Not that I won’t ever receive revision notes, but that the agent won’t really like the book in its current form. Or maybe the notes won’t be that great. What the hell do I know? This is my first rodeo after all.

But then again, maybe the revision notes will show up today and they’ll be wonderful and exciting, and maybe he’ll already have a few publishers he’s talking to that he’d like to pitch to, maybe the script for Dream Dress will sell, and maybe Train Tracks will be the reason I get hired as a staff writer on a show, and maybe this and maybe that. So many maybes. The thing that I really think though is that had I not worked so hard and pushed myself for so long, I wouldn’t even be considering the potential for any of these possibilities. Imagine that? Not even thinking that something good might come of my work because I didn’t do it. The twenty year old me probably thought about that alot as he drank the night away and slept in every morning instead of writing because the task of it seemed too daunting and the excuses too vast. But not anymore. Now I sit down and I get my ass to work because I love it. I don’t have to work towards it. I’m already there.

If that hasn’t earned a drink or two, I don’t know what will.

Until next time, here’s to being scary.

No More Devil’s Advocate

In Uncategorized on May 15, 2017 at 12:49 pm

On May 13th, 2017, White Nationalist Richard Spencer led a group of demonstrators in Charlotte Virginia to protest the removal of a monument of Robert E. Lee. You know… the general who fought on the Confederate side of the American Civil War, which, despite whatever arguments could be made by contrarian history dorks that it wasn’t “about slavery”, I tend to think that, like World War II and Hitler’s intentions with European Jews, the South wasn’t exactly planning on doing anything pleasant with their slaves in the event that they actually won the fucking thing.

I digress. The pictures of the aforementioned demonstration was a weird scene, coupled with Spencer’s own denial of being a bigot. Who could forget one particular interview promptly ended by a punch to the face, where he stated that the KKK didn’t really like him all that much? It’s weird because, beyond whatever thrill there is to be had by really pissing off Social Justice Warriors (hate speech is also free speech guys), I can’t comprehend why anyone would admire the South’s battle to secede given the circumstances. Especially when the admiration is coupled with a denial of bigotry, that the Confederate Flag isn’t a symbol of hate, blah blah blah. I mean, technically speaking, the Nazi symbol is a ancient Indian symbol for peace… or something.

Who gives a fuck, it’s not that anymore and neither is the confederate flag a symbol of whatever passive aggressive nonsense shit kickers want to flaunt in the face of people who probably have legit reasons to be uncomfortable when they see a pick up truck with the stars and bars haul ass out of a bar parking lot while a dude tosses used shotgun shells on the side of the road like cigarette butts.

When Trump was elected, I tried to play devil’s advocate. Not because I thought there would be good, rational, reasons to elect him. I just wanted to try and understand why someone would vote for a person like that, just like I wanted to try and understand why someone like Richard Spencer would think it was a affront to his whiteness to take down a monument of General E. Lee, and that the alt-right was not a “movement of hate”. Sure, there are moments when trigger warnings and Berkeley-esque outbreaks are obnoxious, when social justice warriors pile on the latest outrage like so many flies on unintentional sharts. And while I wish these same people displayed a little more forgiveness towards those unfortunate enough to catch the spot light during their unwanted public moment of shame, the judgment at least makes sense to me on some basic level.

When Trump was elected, I argued with myself that the reason he had/has supporters is because social issues lost all their weight the further you traveled into “Trump Country”. Who cares where a transgender person uses the bathroom if there’s no jobs? Who gives a flying fuck about racial profiling when an entire industry is collapsing around you? These people would argue, “we need food, not laws protecting net neutrality”. Outside of Philadelphia in “Pennsyltucky” the only thing that matters is, “when is the manufacturing plant opening again, when and how are all the jobs going to come back?”.

But here we are,  more than a hundred days into Trump’s presidency, more than a hundred days of the alt-right openly stating their demands that they be allowed to exist as a presence in our society. And you know what? I don’t care why someone voted for this guy or why someone would protest the removal of a confederate monument. I don’t care if the air conditioner factory closed in Ohio. I don’t care if migrants are sneaking through the Mexico/Texas border. If these are the reasons why you ignored all the negative bullshit about Trump and chalked it up to him just “saying it like it is”, if, at this point, you still like the guy and feel like he’s doing a good job, if, at this point, you still don’t think there’s something weird going on with his connections to Russia, or his refusal to release tax returns… then you are a fucking idiot. And I really do mean that. You, Trump supporter, at this point in the game, are a fool. And this is coming from a guy who is super cynical about the news and finds them almost as gross and disgusting as Trump does. This is coming from a guy who begrudgingly “stood with her” for lack of a better choice. This is coming from a guy who really wanted to find a rational reason for why someone would advocate for this shit. But I think it’s clear at this point that the Devil is not evil, he’s just a fucking idiot.

But, hey, that’s kind of the catch-22 of America’s freedom. We all have the right to be as stupid as we want to be. So thank god for spell-check and pass the ammunition.

Until then, here’s to being scary.

The Road To Publication Part VI or How Did I Get Here?

In Uncategorized on May 3, 2017 at 11:29 am

On June 4th, 2014, I emailed myself the first part of A Song For John, neurotically ensuring I had multiple saved files. It became a routine of sorts. Write a chapter in google docs, proof it, edit, etc, then save it as a document and email it to two different emails. That email marks the date and gives me a record of sorts, and with this, a timeline. So, we are, more or less, at the three year mark since I wrote the first page of A Song For John, contrary to my last “Road to Publication” entry, clocking it closer to four years.

Anyone who’s read this blog or has had the patience to hear me talk about this book knows how much work went into it. When I first started it, my job had lost a bartender and I was working overtime for nearly three months. Yet, I still persisted in getting up every morning at 7 AM to write for three hours before showering and working a double at my bar job. I did this for about three months until the stress of it became too much, prompting night terrors, acid reflux, and full blown burn out. Even my wife was starting to notice. I scaled back my alarm to 8 AM instead, then 8:30, giving myself that extra hour and a half of needed sleep. At work I was a zombie on auto-pilot. None the less, when a new bartender was finally hired and my schedule resumed a manageable 30 hours, I found myself so keyed into this morning routine that I have a hard time sleeping in to this day, waking up around 8:30 even if I’m up until two.

This is the routine that got me to my first draft, a whopping 200K that took me about nine months to write. After that, it took me another six months to cut it down. Then came the beta readers and another draft after that,  cutting it down to 150K (roughly 7-800 pages). At that point, I felt it was as good as I could make it. The pitches went out and I waited, knowing deep down it was a uphill battle to pitch a book that long from a new writer.

Flash forward to April 20th, 2016, and I get my first request of the full manuscript. I was a little shocked, to be honest. An actual agent wanted to see my bloated fantasy book. Then that same week there came a second request. Then… nothing. If there’s anything to being a writer, its the numbness one acquires when dealing with failure. I think Chuck Wendig described it as pounding our heads against a brick wall, uncaring how thick it is with the stubborn belief that, eventually, the wall will lose that battle.

Still, I knew, despite the length, I had something here. Agents aren’t in the business of making friends or being polite. One does not request a book just for the hell of it. These two agents saw the pitch and the sample pages and the 150K didn’t scare them off. I had something special. I just had to keep going with my head against that brick wall. Smash, smash, smash.

Following that came a third agent that asked to see the book, then doubled back saying it was too long. BUT, if I managed to cut it under 100K, she’d take a look. My first two agents were unresponsive (which happens constantly, btw), so what did I have to lose? Having just finished the last of The Eight Eyes That Watch You Die (collection forthcoming in 2018) I mulled it over and thought about how I could take the first two acts of the original draft and make it stand alone. In the end it made the story stronger, setting the stage for book II and III. As many have said hearing about my dilemma in pitching a book far too long: make it a trilogy. Turns out they were right.

Flash forward again, to this past November, 2016. The newly cut version goes back out into the wild. The original agent that requested the cut passed (ouch). The first two agents that asked to see the 150K version are still unresponsive. The wall is not cracking, no matter how many times I smash my head against it.

But then… another agent building her list asks to see the book. Then another. Maybe it’s not night and day, but it seems like an easier sell this time around. Randomly, I do one last follow up email with the first two agents that requested the book, letting them know that I had made these drastic changes to the manuscript if they wanted to see it. The first agent is unresponsive. The second responds, saying some personal things came up but that they’d still like to read the new version if it was still available.

A month later, they offer provisional representation. Meaning, we’ll work on the manuscript, pitch it, and if they can get me a deal, we’ll sign a contract making their representation more official.

The wall cracks a little. Not alot. But enough for me to think that maybe there’s light on the other side. My head hurts, but it’s not broken. And I have an agent.

How the hell did I get here?

I busted my ass. I made sacrifices. I blew off drinks with friends. I slept less. I read more. I wrote ALOT. At one point, I was writing the book on my fucking phone while between waiting tables. I ignored all the fear and anxiety of pitching a project that might possibly go nowhere. I believed in it. I kept doing the work, and every time I felt like maybe I had done all I could, I found more that I could do. And that’s why, now, I don’t know if it’s fair to label these entries, jokingly, as a documentation of how I “wasted my life”. Because I learned so much and have grown so much during this process. I became a better story teller. I think, in some ways, it has made me a better person. But most importantly, I didn’t take any shortcuts because, well, there aren’t any shortcuts. And this is what I would tell the old me and anyone else who looks at a writer announcing a deal they got or an agent they just acquired: if you want this, if you really want this, you have to do the work. And if you want to know what that means and how long it takes… re-read what you just read and the all the entries before that. Because if at any point you think “I don’t know if I can do that for that long a period of time”, then you’ll probably never get there. But if you’re like me, you’re too stubborn to care how long it takes. You can’t be told no. And in that sense, there’s nothing I can say to help because you don’t need it.

That wall is gonna go down, no matter how hard and how long I have to smash my head against it.

See you on the other side.

Until then, here’s to being scary.

 

Dream Dress and The Eight Eyes That Watch You Die

In Uncategorized on March 25, 2017 at 5:20 pm

DDimage

-cracks knuckles-

It’s been a busy couple of months between the ongoing task of pitching the novel to agents and working on other projects, not to mention the day to day of having an actual life and breaking to eat now and again. Then there’s sleep- HA, who needs sleep when you have coffee? Having just returned from a vacation in Barcelona, where I drank lots of booze and coffee and ate more iberian ham than one should (instagram americantypo for pics), I was ready to get back to the grind. Hopefully I’ll be starting a new bartending job soon, as well as finishing up recording for my band Night Film and editing a script (more on that below).

But why I’m writing today is to announce that my collection The Eight Eyes That Watch You Die has been picked up by Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing and will be published sometime in the spring of 2018!

I’ve mentioned this collection a few times before and have already had several stories within the collection published, but it’s been nothing short of a thrill to work on it. Writing the novel was a blast, but this collection took so many odd turns and presented me with so many opportunities to flex my writing muscles and experiment, I feel that I have truly come out on the other side of it a much better writer for the experience.

There are eight stories in the collection, two of which have been previously published in some form or another (“The God of Dead Dreamers” in Shroud, and “Shelob Headlines The Ox” in one of Fox Spirits’ Books Fox Pockets). The former is about a man pressured to smuggle drugs onto a cruise ship, the latter about a trans girl named Scar living in a punk warehouse in Philadelphia. Out of the remaining six, one is written as an unfinished stage play  entitled “Julie’s Scars: A Two Act Play”, referencing Marquis de Sade and focusing on the life of a sex worker. Another story satirizes white privilege and is told through a series of recordings made by a man in therapy who believes his wife is not who she says she is. Paired with this is a story entitled “The Laughing Tree”, which delves into the topic of race in America from the perspective of a black stand up comic, with each section of the story shorter than the one before it (much like the rings of a tree). “Bitten” is your standard horror short story and will hopefully be featured by another publisher when the full collection is printed (though I can’t say who just yet). “A Walking Shadow” occurs long after the events of the previous stories in the collection, wrapping things up, and aside from the fact that it takes place in a world we don’t necessarily recognize, it features almost no genre elements.

“Dream Dress”, however, is what started all of this in many ways.

Let’s go back to the beginning. I had written and sold “Shelob Headlines The Ox” followed by “The God of Dead Dreamers”. Both featured spiders and drugs, though the two stories were unrelated otherwise. At this point I had not started my novel, but I had been writing a decent amount and had gotten roughly 20 stories accepted. At the time, my wife had suggested that I write a story about lolita culture, which is the fashion sub-culture she is a part of and something of a feature at most anime conventions. If I managed to put something good together we’d work on it, get someone to edit it professionally, and hire someone to do cover art and sell it at the conventions as a way of promoting my work (after all, I was frequently helping her at these cons).

I chewed on the idea, letting it gestate. The idea grew. What if there was a designer of dresses whose work was so good you didn’t buy the dress, but applied for the privilege of wearing them? And what if every time a girl was approved, she disappeared?

And what if, somehow, this story featured the same mythology I had introduced in “The God of Dead Dreamers” and was somehow connected to “Shelob Headlines The Ox”?

I started writing down ideas for more stories. I decided, for better or for worse, to challenge myself with each story, to tackle a different voice, a different style. I would write in first person, second, and third person. I would write the story as recordings. I would write the story as a play. I would write from perspectives not my own to the best of my ability while somehow commenting on these perspectives in a way that was as honest as I could be about the subject matter. Following that, I tried, to the best of ability, to have each story vetted by someone of that perspective in order to ensure I was not appropriating a culture or identity, and that I had written these characters with respect without parading them as the “other” to make my work more exotic or interesting. And let’s face it, is there anything worse than a narrative throwing in a transgender character or a sex worker to spice things up? Or how about all of the times a culture contrary to the narrator was presented in order to add color to an otherwise bland pallet? I can’t change who I am, which is your standard issue straight white male, but I sure as hell can try to write narratives I find compelling about perspectives I think are important in American culture. In the end, each story became a conversation of sorts, one I was having with myself and these other identities that I was not.

And all of them were tied together through a mythology first introduced in “The God of Dead Dreamers”.

Of all the stories mentioned, “Dream Dress” is the longest, nearly a hundred pages. And while I don’t know if it’s the best in the collection, it’s one of the stories I enjoyed writing the most. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent so much time with lolita girls that the culture and the narrative felt easy to me. The voices were there. I just had to type them up. More so, I was happy to have something to present to readers prior to the collection being released, which is why my wife and I are printing this as a stand alone novella (or novellette if you like). It’s only in print form, and it’ll be available for sale at conventions, but you can also buy it through amazon or createspace, whichever floats your boat. If you happen to read the story, be sure to leave a review! It definitely helps.

Until then, I am back to the grind on a new project and continuing the hustle of finding an agent. I also tried my hand at a script, taking “Dream Dress” and transcribing it as a screenplay, which was a lot of fun. Other than that, it’s the usual. Beer, cats, negronis, rinse and repeat.

Until then, here’s to being scary.

 

The Road To Publication Part V, or How I Wasted Three/Four Years Of My Life

In Uncategorized on March 3, 2017 at 8:04 pm

Updates.

I recently received a rejection by an agent I was given a referral for. This particular agent was very generous with his time and gave me his thoughts on my work. The pitch was solid, the writing was good, however he did not feel confident in being able to sell the material, as he does not typically represent fantasy. It was bitter sweet, sweet because I feel like, once again, I am on the right track, bitter because I am tired of writing query emails. In addition to his own inadequacy in representing fantasy, he felt the mainstream market was not quite friendly to my genre and tone, which was gritty, dark, weird, a bit hard to place I suppose. His opinion is that another agent more familiar with my kind of work would fare better in finding a home for it and he was kind enough to give me a specific referral, one which I promptly queried today. Afterwards I hunted for some more names, tweaked the pitch again. One of the items this aforementioned agent mentioned was that it would not be wise to not speak on how many pitches have been sent, but anyone reading this blog knows it’s been a project I’ve been trying to sell for quite some time and an agent only has to a dig a little to see how far this journey has taken me (with titles such as the one of this particular entry to add to the pile of evidence). But why hide the truth? I believe an agent’s pass with the caveat that it was “not for them” is made with sincerity and that this also suggests that there is an agent out there for whom this book is a perfect fit. I just have yet find that person.

I digress. I was not upset by the rejection because to be honest, I did not think he’d bite. In fact, I predicted the very thing he did, which was to say no, give me his thoughts and advice, and suggest an agent I would be wise to query. My wife was probably more upset than I was, which is understandable, as we often don’t fully grasp the approach a person has with a process like this. What can I say? I’ve been doing this for so long; writing, submitting, editing, getting rejected. Rejection has become a part of the “process”, almost as much as the act of writing itself. At the end of the day, I rolled my sleeves up, got back to work, and continued writing.

Which brings me to new projects! My novella Dream Dress will be available soonish as a self published novel to be sold at conventions as soon as I have cover art for it. In addition to that, as soon as I get the go-ahead from the publisher, I’ll be able to announce more concrete details about the short story collection Eight Eyes, which features Dream Dress among seven other stories about a drug called “silk”. I’m also nearly finished a first draft of a script version of Dream Dress, which I’m really enjoying and may try my hand at a few more film ideas before tackling the next book, which I’ve also started broadly outlining. I don’t have a title for the new book, but it’s a mix of The Exorcist meets A Visit From The Goon Squad, giving a panoramic view of a boy who is plagued by demonic possession, and my own personal meditation on faith, how we gain it, lose it, and what it means under different circumstances and for different people. It’s also got a rural vibe to it, which is closer to my upbringing having grown up in Pennsyltucky.

As for A Song For John? Recently I skimmed the pages, curious about this narrative I hadn’t really looked at it since this past December. Time makes a stranger of old work. All I could think was- this is a story I still believe in. This isn’t to say it couldn’t be better, or that I would resist any notes or suggestions from an agent or an editor. But all I could think was- don’t give up on this. It’s worth fighting for, it’s worth pitching, it’s worth querying again and again and again. And maybe it isn’t “mainstream”, but I know in my heart it’s a story that will resonate with people and it’s a story an agent is waiting for. So, you won’t see me shelving it any time soon, you won’t see me giving up. Not after I worked so hard to make it shine as much as it now does. As I said in my last entry- what’s a dozen passes? I’ll keep going until it’s a thousand. After all, I wouldn’t want my office chair to have been nearly destroyed for nothing.

Until then, here’s to being scary.