Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New Collection, New Publisher

In my previous entry I alluded to an upcoming new short story collection and described the process of pulling together the stories for that collection. Many of you reading this will no doubt have already heard the news from various other sources earlier this week, but I'll go ahead and formally announce it here, as this blog essentially functions as my official site.

The title of the collection is Highways To Hell and that "publisher-to-be-named" is Deadite Press. The release date for the collection is April of this year. The content of the collection has largely been decided, though we are still working to finalize the lineup. Yes, the title is an allusion to the AC/DC song "Highway To Hell." No shit, right? The reason I selected that name is pretty straightforward. As I was reviewing the stories under consideration, I noted that several of them could, in one sense or another, be described as "road stories". Because I am a horror writer, they are a particularly nasty and, well, hellish take on that trope. Not all of the stories in the collection fall into that niche, but enough of them do that the title feels appropriate. It also dovetails nicely with another of the stories included, "Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be", which originally appeared in Necro's Edward Lee tribute anthology Infernally Yours. Many of you may also recognize that story title as the name of an AC/DC song. Again, no accident, as the protagonist of the story, a serial killer, runs into the late AC/DC singer Bon Scott in hell after committing suicide.

Another story that should be of particular interest in Highways To Hell is "Pizza Face", which is a story slated to eventually appear in Cemetery Dance's Richard Laymon tribute anthology In Laymon's Terms. A lot of you are likely familiar with the saga of that long-delayed tome. For a lot of reasons to which I am not privy, publication of that anthology has been delayed for several years. The story was accepted in early 2003. The people at CD kindly allowed me to use the story for my new collection. It will still appear in In Laymon's Terms when that book is eventually published, but it felt right to include it in Highways To Hell as well.

Deadite Press will now function as my primary publisher. This is not to say my book length work will not appear elsewhere. You will occasionally see things from me by other publishers, including later this year. But 90% of my output will be done by Deadite. In addition to the collection, they will also be releasing new editions of my entire Leisure backlist, beginning with The Killing Kind in June. A new backlist title will follow every other month thereafter. In 2012 Deadite Press will publish a new original novel, The Killing Kind 2.

I'm in pretty good company with Deadite, who are also now the primary paperback publisher of horror luminaries Brian Keene, J.F. Gonzalez, Edward Lee, Wrath James White, and Robert Devereaux.

Pop on over to their site and pay them a visit. If you're a regular reader of my stuff, I think you'll like what you see.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Trunk stories and other effluvia

Recently I agreed to a deal with a publisher-to-be-named to do a collection of my short fiction. I've been so focused on writing novels for so long that there really isn't a big wealth of material from which to cull stories for this thing. However, in my research for this project, I was pleased to discover there were just enough stories to warrant one decent-sized collection.

My first print publication of any real significance was a chapbook of four short stories called Under The Skin. Under The Skin was released by Undaunted Press in early 2003, about a year and a half before my first novel from Leisure Books was released. All of the stories from the chapbook will appear in this new collection. Prior to the chapbook, I'd had a few stories appear online at Horrorfind and at a now-defunct e-zine called Dream Forge. Two of the Horrorfind stories appeared as free fiction offerings on my message board for a couple of years, but have now been pulled from there due to their upcoming inclusion in the new collection.

So that takes us up to half a dozen stories. A good start, but not quite enough for a full collection. While I was searching for things for this project, there was one story in particular that I badly wanted to find and include. Not necessarily because it is any better than any of the other stories--it isn't--but because of its significance in my early writing history and development. The story is called "Slugger" and it was technically my first professional sale when it was accepted in 1990 by New Blood Magazine. For those too young to know, New Blood was one of a number of upstart small press genre fiction mags that sprang up in the wake of the demise of the vaunted Horror Show (which was basically the Cemetery Dance of its day). New Blood's editor, Chris Lacher, quickly made a name for himself with a brash editorial style. He was from roughly my generation, maybe slightly older. I submitted numerous stories to New Blood. They were consistently rejected, but in the series of chatty cover letters and rejection notes this period covered, I found that Chris and I both enjoyed the novels of Richard Laymon and many of the same rock and roll bands of the era. Lacher's in-your-face editorial approach occasionally offended people. He really had a kind of Brian Keene vibe about him, and back then I thought he was going to end up being a big deal.

Anyway, "Slugger" was my breakthrough with New Blood and I was of course thrilled when Chris accepted it. True to my luck back then, however, something went wrong at New Blood. They never published another issue and "Slugger" never appeared. Having it appear in this collection is my way of achieving a sort of belated closure with that mostly forgotten period of my writing history. However, the problem was finding an actual copy of the story. It had previously existed only in a physical, typed form. I hunted through box after box of old junk in a desperate search for the manuscript. I was on the verge of giving up when I came across a pair of keys at the bottom of one box. The keys were to an old lockbox, which I knew to contain other old manuscripts, as well as many fragments of unfinished stories going all the way back to my early teenage years.

The lockbox was going to be my last ditch effort. I hadn't opened it in ages and I'd assumed I was going to have to break it open somehow. Luckily, the discovery of the long-missing keys spared me that effort. I opened the lockbox and breathed a sigh of deep relief when I discovered the "Slugger" manuscript near the top of a very tightly packed-in stack of old stories. I set "Slugger" aside and started a trip down memory lane as I sifted through the old things. I found one more useable story, one called "Rattlehead", which appeared in the Dream Forge ezine circa 1996. It's a good story and deserves new life.

Nothing else in the lockbox really was good enough or fully realized enough to warrant inclusion in the collection. It was, however, a personally fascinating look at my development down through the years. I read one story written when I was fifteen called "When The Goblins Came To Spencer Avenue", which was highly derivative of both the Twilight Zone and Stephen King. Not a great story by any means, but I was surprised to find several paragraphs that were pretty solidly constructed, even if the ideas they conveyed weren't worthy. None of the dialogue in that story rang true in any way, but what do you expect? I was fifteen.

Another story called "Autopsy Queen" was written a bit further down the line, probably somewhere in my early twenties. It's a longish story about a strange girl who lovingly maintains photo albums of dead people. As I read the story, it struck me that this girl was sort of an early version of Julie in The Killing Kind.

There were five pages of something with the astonishingly original title Return of the Dead, which was written somewhere in my teens and appears to have been meant to be the start of a novel. As you probably guessed, it was a zombie thing and probably about the blandest bit of zombie fiction you could imagine. Nonetheless, I think it was probably my first stab at writing about zombies and seems noteworthy for that alone at least.

I won't go into the rest of it in any real depth. There was simply too much stuff, including a number of complete stories amongst all the fragments. But even the complete stories are too much a relic of the past to ever warrant public scrutiny. They'll never be published and that's as it should be. It's likely that any writer who has been writing nearly his or her whole life has a similar trove of ancient stories. They're interesting to look back on every once in a long while to see how we've developed over the years and decades, but that's about it.

So "Slugger" and "Rattlehead" brings us up to eight good stories for the collection. Not quite enough. Luckily we will be able to include some stories of more modern vintage, stories that were previously only available in a limited way via anthologies, including one from a long-in-the-works tribute anthology that, as of this writing, still hasn't been published. That puts the collection at a dozen stories, which feels like a decent size. It may yet include one or two other things, and I think my regular readers will enjoy the finished product.

More news about this project, including the publisher, coming soon.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Pre-order The Dark Ones

The Delirium edition of my new novel The Dark Ones is now available for pre-order:

They are The Dark Ones. The name began as a self-deprecating joke, but it stuck and now it’s a source of pride. There is a darkness within them all. A hidden danger waiting to be exploited. A rage in desperate search of expression. They’re the one who don’t fit in. The misfits who drink and smoke too much and stay out all hours of the night. Everyone knows they’re trouble.

But soon the other residents of Ransom, TN, will discover the true meaning of trouble. On the outskirts of Ransom is an abandoned, boarded-up house. Something evil happened there long ago. The evil has been contained there ever since, locked down tight in the basement—until the night The Dark Ones break in and set it free.

Soon a demonic darkness spreads through Ransom, quickly infecting the entire town. And now The Dark Ones are their town’s only hope. They must return the demon—Andras, The Killer of Men—to his prison beneath the earth before it is too late.