Free Fiction on Monday

Hey, everybody.  I told you a free story would go up on October 1st, if I decided to do the free fiction thing.  Well, I have decided to post my old stories on a month-by-month basis, but I won’t have the first one ready to go until Monday.  A week spent in the darkened theaters of Fantastic Fest has left me exhausted, and I need my wits about me to proofread and format the first story for the web.

So, I’ll make you a deal.  You’ll get a free story (a reprint, of course), on the first Monday of every month from now into the forseeable future.  How’s that sound?  I’ll see you back here on Monday with the first story.

Drawing Lines

The past year or so has taught me a lot.  Between the publication of Just Like Hell and Broken Skin, I received several offers for collaborations, appearances in anthologies, and magazine publications.  I’ve scored a contract for a novel and then been released from it.  I’ve written two novels that were both gutted when smarter writers pointed out terrible flaws.  I’ve made more and more friends within the business, and every single one of them had helpful advise to send my way.  At the same time, I’ve seen some ugly things, practices and philosophies that make me want to run screaming from this genre.

Instead of running, I drew some lines.  A career, even a teeny-tiny one like mine, isn’t worth a damn thing without some form of integrity.  Now, I don’t have a whole lot of integrity, but I figured it was best to lay out a few rules for myself.  Those rules (and their exceptions) are…

1) The story has to be one I want to tell.
Maybe this one is a no-brainer.  What I mean by it is no forcing a story if I’m not passionate about it.  If there’s an anthology paying pro rates (or even more importantly, less than pro rates) calling for “Terror at the Zoo” stories or something, I won’t force a story just to make a sale.  If I don’t have a story to tell, I won’t crap one out.

2) I don’t work for free.
In the past, I’ve done work for a few anthologies that were paid on a royalty-only basis.  I did it because I thought it would help gain me some wider recognition.  Well, three years later I still haven’t seen any royalties, and that tells me a little something about how many people picked up those books and now recognize my name.

Now, this one has some exceptions.  There’s the “For a friend” exception.  There’s also the “For a good cause” exception and the “Way too fun to pass up” exception.

3) The publisher matters.
I’m not excatly the most in-demand writer, and I’m fine with that.  I do, however, take the publisher of any potential project into account.  Do they have good distribution?  Have they screwed writers in the past?  Do they have a history of good production values?  All of these things need to be taken into account, as I’ll only be taken as seriously as a publisher allows me to be.

4) I will not beg for awards.
Last year, Just Like Hell racked up enough recommendations to make the Stoker long list for short fiction (yeah, that’s a weird sentence).  My great source of pride lies in the fact that I didn’t trade recommendations with any authors, an offer I received more than once or twice.  Every rec came from somebody who read the book and liked it.

In the past week, I’ve seen a few people make offers of free books or pdf copies to voting members of the HWA.  Now I did something similar last year, when there was a big thread of folks doing it on Shocklines.  All I received was a single offer to trade recommendations, and the whole thing just made me feel like a whore.  Well, that’s not going to happen again.  If something I write ever makes the final Stoker ballot or wins (hell, that goes for any award) it won’t be because of my prodding.  Otherwise, it’s not really an award, but a favor.

So that’s what I have right now, my four guidelines for a better career.  Maybe they’ll lead me right.  Time will tell.

Terror is my co-pilot, or learning to ride

Last summer, while riding around Texas in my broken down car that lacks air conditioning, I started to think that I needed a new vehicle.  When I looked at rising gas prices, I decided I need something with good mileage.  Thoughts of a Honda Fit gave way to a Smart before moving on to a scooter.  They stuck on the scooter for a few days, and then everything clicked into place.

A motorcycle.

Yeah!  Why the fuck not, right?  My father had a bike, so did two of my brothers.  Runs in the family.  My mother would hate it, but I’m a grown-ass man.  Pretty sure I can make my own decisions (I asked my girlfriend if I was, and she informed me that, since it didn’t involve the house, I was).

So I started taking steps toward getting a motorcycle.

The past year has been an exercise in getting my debt under control and preparing to take on a motorcycle loan.  I spent a lot of time researching models and makes, as well as possible customizations like bars, exhausts, controls, you name it.  Before I knew it, the time had come to take the next step…

…learning to ride.

Last Thursday, I showed up in class to start the three day motorcycle safety course offered by Motofun.  After a brief introduction, I learned I was one of maybe three people in the class who had never ridden before.  Around that point, I started feeling a little intimidated.  I was determined not to let it get to me, though.  I was prepared!  Armed with several viewings of helpful youtube videos.  I knew the mechanics of riding, if nothing else.

Then Saturday came, first day on the riding range.  And Saturday brought a friend called A Whole Lot of Rain along for the ride.  So after stopping to grab some rain gear (which didn’t help for fuck all), I made my way down to the high school parking lot that would be our range for the next two days.

The terror began soon after.

I was amazed at how fast I went from “I got this” to “OHSHITOHSHITOHSHITOHSHIT!”  Puttering around in first wasn’t a problem.  Once we were told to upshift into second, however, I kept finding neutral.  Follow that with a quick stop, and suddenly my brain became a grocery list that I just couldn’t get through fast enough.

At least I wasn’t one of the few people who dumped their bikes the first day.  I did manage to lock the front wheel up once, but I got it back under control (completely by accident).  By the end of the day, I even managed to find second and third without too much fidgeting.

After our first day of riding, we returned to the classroom to finish that portion.  I passed the written test with only one question wrong out of fifty.  Not bad!  My confidence was returning.

Then came Sunday.

And the fucking U-Turn box.

Now, I don’t know what sadistic asshole came up with the U-Turn box, but I hope they’re dead, and I hope they died painfully.  As easy as a bike might be to turn at speed, when physics just swings you around like you’re on a string, turning even a light motorcycle at a crawl is about as easy as operating on a flea.  I made eight attempts to stay in this box and complete my two U-Turns, and I had eight failures.  Campared to that box, the rest of the day was cake.  The instructors even told us those slow, tight turns are more of a convenience skill, and that there are riders of thirty years or more who can’t pull it off.

So we made it through the next few hours, practicing swerves, counter-steering, and many other things, and soon we were ready for our riding skills test.  First up?

That goddamn U-Turn box.

I was fourth in line to try this painted rectangle of doom, and I was pretty damn sure it was going to make me fail the test.  Our skills test involved four tasks: the U-Turn, a quick swerve, a 135 degree turn at speed, and a quick stop.  Collect more than twenty penalty points, and you fail.  I was sure I’d leave that box with thirty or more.

I’ve never been an optimist.

So I watched the first three riders tackle the box with varying degrees of success.  Our instructors waved me on, and I took off to fight that stupid rectangle.

And I fucking nailed it.  Well, nailed it is a bit extreme.  I still left the box once or twice, but only by a few inches instead of my usual twenty feet or more.  I went on to nail the swerve and turn, and I only gained a few points for making a bit too slow of a stop.  End of the day, I only accumulated eight penality points, enough for me to skip the riding portion of the drivers license test.  Good for me.

Two days later, I’m still a little sore, probably from Saturday’s day of white-knuckled terror.  I know I can ride, though, and with practice I’m only going to get better.

Now, to get a bike….

Bits and Pieces

Almost all copies of Broken Skin have been shipped.  Watch your mailboxes.

I’m adding links to available copies to the bookstore as various book sellers place Broken Skin up for order/pre-order.

I’ve been speaking back and forth with Thunderstorm Books about my next two projects with them.  Still far too early to announce anything, but there are books coming down the pike.  The first one will be a collaboration. 

Recently, I got a look at Zach McCain’s cover for my next novellette, He Stepped Through.  Once again, Zach did some amazing work.  I can’t wait for everybody to see it.  He Stepped Through should be available soon from Bloodletting Press.

My short story “I Found a Little Hole” will be appearing in the nect Shivers anthology from Cemetery Dance.  Expect that around the end of the year, maybe beginning of next year.

Two weeks until Fantastic Fest hits.  They’ve announced the final slate of films.  Can’t wait.  In the meantime, I have a motorcycle safety class to survive.

Broken Skin and Short Stories

Broken Skin is officially shipping this week.  Everybody who ordered copies should have them soon, unless you ordered from Horror Mall, in which case you’ll get your copy once they’ve received their allotment. 

I’ve already updated the bibliography portion of this site with the Broken Skin stories.  Unless I can’t count (which is a possibility), I now have two dozen stories out there.  Back when I started taking a serious swing at this writing gig, I never imagined I’d have two dozen short stories published.  Of course, when I first got serious about my writing, I was convinced I’d have an ongoing comic series on stands by now.  I never would have imagined I would have found my true love with prose (man, that sounds corny), but I’m glad I made the switch.

Anyway, so I now have enough published stories (that I’m proud of) that I’m considering starting a free story section of the site, updated either monthly or quarterly.  It’ll give me a good chance to dust off some of the stories that might require a little tweaking.  I’ll think about it some more.  If it starts, it’ll start in October.