Drum roll please…
My novel Once in a Lifetime has been picked up by TouchPoint Press! (It’s fun, coming-of-age young adult fiction set in the 1980s.) The book is going to be published estimated early 2022. They’ve already got an author page posted for me. Let the pigeons loose!
I love having good news to share, but as online media always tends to do, my “News” headline never reflects the true and often excruciating story behind the final outcome.
I’ve in fact experience a barrage of good news lately, including acceptance into two anthologies, one horror magazine, and a posting on a parenting site, as mentioned in my previous blog. But what brought this all about was nothing less than my banging my head against the wall, over and over again, so to speak.
Everyone says to follow your heart with writing, which can create considerable dilemmas, because the heart is a dead-crazy troublemaking machine. This is especially true for someone like me, who sold out long ago and made a career out of writing for corporate customers. People pay me a good living to leverage my creativity and bring recognition to their brands. Therefore, after finally reigniting to my passion for fiction and creative non-fiction, I found it hard not to write about the critical things that were burning in the depths of my being.
Things like dysfunctional relationships. Grave life choices. Emotional deficiencies. Sexual confusion. The desperate realization that you should be somewhere else—with some other guy, in some better job, with some better life.
These are the things that intrigue me and that have littered my short fiction.
Yet this spring I hosted some virtual interview sessions for Pennwriters, filling the void that our cancelled in-person conference left in the membership’s undernourished event schedules. I listened to successful writers like Jonathan Maberry (V-Wars), who said that he always kept writing, just for the sake of it, to keep the creative gears lubricated. That meant anything—prompts, even, or stuff outside his genre. As long as he was writing.
I thought to myself, maybe I’m beating my forehead raw, ruminating over all this emotionally scarring short fiction that seems to have zero market. Maybe there’s no use in striving to be a newly incarnated mash-up of Tom Robbins, Mona Simpson, and Jack Kerouac, when that shit is too painful and realistic for anyone to read in their spare time. (Note a lot of this applies to my short stories; my novels have been more light-hearted.)
Maybe I could pick a genre and write for an established audience. I could revisit my teenage aspirations, when I wanted to be Stephen King. I could produce shit that’s gory and spooked-out and weird. I like weird.
I’ve always like weird. I come from a family where my brother quotes Star Trek and Rod Serling profusely. And I strain to find new X-Files holiday toys for my septuagenarian mother because she already owns them all. Weird horror simmers in my DNA.
After some aggressive prompting from some critique partners, I wrote up a ghostly/gory short piece and started researching where to send it. While I was at it, I found a submission call that was a good match for a parenting essay I wrote when my kids were young.
The parenting piece was picked up within weeks by a site called Motherwell, which features some excellent compositions by moms all over the globe. Another parenting blogger quickly contacted me asking me to write for her as well.
Wow, wouldn’t I have an awesome writing career if I just stuck to nice, wholesome stuff, like being a mom? I thought. Or if I focused on far-out and obviously made-up stories about spooks and phantasms, instead of tortured, semi-autobiographical tales of young people in faltering relationships? Maybe my life would be easier if I weren’t constantly exhausting myself, trying to sell stories full of abortions and impotence and drag queens and flawed party girls and defective parents? Stuff that’s too relationship-y and commercial to be considered literary fiction, yet not nearly clean-cut and HEA-based enough to fall into a genre?
Not long after hearing from Motherwell, I got an acceptance on my ghost/murder story from a creepy-cool magazine called Dark Dossier (tagline: “The Magazine of Ghosts, Aliens, Monsters, and Killers”). I pulled myself together an wrote another semi-grisly story based on a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not-like death.
That one was quickly accepted by the “Little Demon Digest” anthology, coming out in the next few months. Before I even got the chance to alert the other places I had submitted to that it was out of the running, an online site called The Horror Zine asked to publish it as well. I had to apologize to them and back out.
I thought, I’m onto something here.
I dug up a submission call for an anthology that asked for tongue-in-cheek horror stories set in the 1980s (its examples mentioned a haunted mall and a zombified Debbie Gibson.) With a late-night deadline looming, I decided I wouldn’t let them publish that book without me. I cranked out a piece in four hours and hit submit.
An acceptance email showed up from that editor within two days.
And sure enough, lubricated gears of fate turned things in more ways than I expected. I sent my manuscript, now called Once In a Lifetime, to several independent publishers and heard back from TouchPoint Press, which has a heavy emphasis on women’s fiction. So all that mental WD-40 I undertook by pushing out genre fiction seemed to grease the wheels of the universe in the end.
Sometimes you have to kick yourself in the ass and change your luck. In your own compromises, you may find a new calling … where people actually answer.
I’M PRETTY FREAKING EXCITED!