W. P. Johnson

Archive for March, 2017|Monthly archive page

Dream Dress and The Eight Eyes That Watch You Die

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

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-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.