Category Archives: Horror

The Scribe’s Arcanum: Anatomy of a First Sale—Part 2

The Scribe’s Arcanum:

Anatomy of a First Sale—Part 2

In 2006 I made my first short story  sale. It was hard won and an amazing experience. Here’s how it happened:

I had joined the Horror Writer’s Association (HWA) as an affiliate member in the early 2000s. For various reasons at that time they were looking to jettison members who didn’t have any sales. They now required a semi-profesional sale of not less than $25 to retain affiliate member status and stay in the organization. They gave us a year to make affiliate or be cast out. 

There were rumblings from some members, but having an interest in setting goals with  deadlines, I took this as the perfect opportunity to do whatever it took to make my first sale. I had a year, and a year could go by quickly. I knew I had to get started right away. 

In addition, to complete this goal I would have to break a rule I was taking way too literally. That rule: start at the top market and work your way down. The problem with that strategy is it takes a long time. Especially when some top markets were holding stories up to a year (sometimes longer) before sending a rejection letter. On the plus side, if you made a sale it was going to be a big one. 

However, to achieve my goal, I wouldn’t be able to use that strategy any longer. At least, that is, until I made my first semi-pro sale. 

As part of this new strategy, I looked at semi-pro magazines that had sent me encouraging notes along with a rejection. Then I wrote stories specifically for that market.

I had done this at least once before, written a story specifically for a magazine that showed interest in my work.  One such magazine was Dreams of Decadence, edited by Angella Kessler. 

In the year 2000, my wife and I made a return trip to New Orleans. We hadn’t been back to NOLA since our honeymoon. We had stayed at the Bourbon Orleans, and a kindly bellhop had given us some advice on where to go and which areas to avoid. The dark and dangerous streets of the French Quarter excited my imagination. Then, in our youth, being adventurous, we found ourselves having drinks at a vampire bar, as part of a tour led by a self-proclaimed vampire who called himself Vlad. 

When we returned home, my experiences coalesced into the story, The Hours of Sleep. I’ll talk more about that story in another post. Suffice it to say, I sent this vampire short story to Dreams of Decadence and received a rejection letter. Still, Ms. Kessler wrote back telling me she thought the story was interesting and unique. No easy feat for a well worn trope. 

I decided to try my hand at writing a story specifically for her magazine. To do this we traveled to Pandemonium Books and Games in Boston to pick up some sample issues. It could have been Man from Atlantis, but I think it was Pandemonium. Either way, I grabbed issues from a handful of genre magazines.

Bringing them home, I read each magazine cover to cover and analyzed them to see if I could understand what made that particular editor tick. 

I discovered some simularites between the stories. In Dreams, the majority of the stories were written in the first person point of view, the protagonists were overwhelmingly female, and if I’m remembering correctly, the stories all had a dark ending. 

I set out to write a story with these qualities while retaining what I felt the editor thought unique about my story. I entitled the story, “Despair.” Aptly named, for as soon as it was ready to send out, Dreams of Decadence had closed up shop.  My dreams were dashed. 

I had also learned in the interim, most magazine editors, and those stalwarts who still read short stories, were sick of vampire fiction. Seemingly, no one was buying vampire fiction any longer.  What to do? What to do? 

I ended up putting the story away in what is sometimes known as “the trunk.” Yes, a trunk story, as it’s called, is an unsaleable story writers would place into a physical wooden trunk before the digital age. Today, writers usually just store the story on their computer hard drive (keeping a backup in the cloud), and move on. 

Eventually, in 2006, I took the story out of mothballs, performed another light edit, and then sent it out to a small press magazine that, surprise of all surprises, was actually looking for vampire fiction. 

This time I received another personal rejection. The editor said she thought the writing was excellent, but didn’t like first person narration and decided to pass.. I’m not that big a fan either. I figured that was the end of that story’s marketability. No one was looking for vampire fiction… or so I thought! Stay tuned for more in the next thrilling installment. Haha! 

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The Scribe’s Arcanum: Anatomy of a First Sale—Part 1

The Scribe’s Arcanum

Anatomy of a First Sale—Part 1

How do you get published traditionally? A lot of newer writers have this question. I can tell you how I did it, giving you some insight into the process. This will be a longer post, probably the longest of the Anatomy of a Sale series since I have to start from the beginning. I’ll try to work though the background information quickly. 

I wrote my real first short stories back in junior high. I had the opportunity to read a story to the class, and once I did, I become known as: The Writer. There was another classmate who was known as: The Artist. I was envious of him as I had wanted to be an artist myself, a comic book illustrator to be exact, but found what I really wanted to do was tell a story. I discovered in short order it was easier to tell a story with words than with pictures——at least it was for me. 

Then in high school I wrote a short story for an English class. At the time, I was trying to sail under the radar. I couldn’t help but take up the challenge, and once my teacher saw I had talent, I lost the ability to remain invisible in that class. There’s a lot more to this story, but I’ll save it for another day. 

Fast forward to late 1996, early 1997. After a couple years of marriage, I felt settled down and focused enough to try my hand at writing again. This time I wanted to see if I could make a fiction sale. I told my wife as much, asking her to buy me a Writer’s Digest Short Story Market  for Christmas/Hanukkah. 

I made her a promise that with that tome by my side, I would write a story and send it out.  If nothing else, I’d get my first rejection letter. 

I had researched enough to know that even top writers like Stephen King had spent a great deal of time collecting rejection slips. I felt that getting a “thanks, but no thanks” letter was an achievable goal, and it kept me from worrying about the results. The worst that could happen was that I would be sent an acceptance letter and not get my goal of a rejection. That would have been a “failure” I could live with. 

I wrote my first story, with an eye towards making a sale, on a Brother word processor, sending out a hard copy in the mail and waiting breathlessly for the post office to send me a response. Instead of a rejection, I was surprised to read a short note informing me that that the magazine had just gone out of business. 

Immediately, I sent the story to a small press magazine. A few months later I received a very nice note written on a form rejection letter stating: “Good story! Just too traditional for this publication.” Not a bad first rejection. In-fact, it’s extremely good. Much better than I realized at the time. 

Most of my rejections were like this. I had immediately received encouraging letters and notes, but no sales. It was a better sign than I could have known. I was close, but life was getting in the way. By the end of 1997 I had transitioned into a  management position in the security industry. Producing reports and policies and procedures manuals kept me writing, and a  24 hour pager and 16 hour shifts kept me exhausted and with little time for anything else. 

In the year 2000 I completed a transition to a human resources position, regaining some of the time I had lost. With extra time came an emptiness I couldn’t seem to fill. I had returned to martial arts over a year earlier (having left my old school in 1997) and even though I loved my training, it wasn’t enough to fill me up. It was only when I returned to writing that I felt whole again. 

That year, I found a message board frequented by horror writers who had been popular in the 1980s. These authors had been my writing heroes, and they inspired me to return to my horror roots. Before that, I had spent most of my time writing science fiction. I figured I understood the horror genre more than SF, and that I would have a publication credit in no time. How wrong I was! 

In 2004 I placed a short story, “Graven Image,” with a webzine called The Swamp. I didn’t get paid for that “sale” but I did get an acceptance, something I sorely needed at the time. 

It wouldn’t be until 2006 when I made my first sale. Yes, It would take me six years to make my first paid sale. Persistance pays off. Persistance and practice. I’ll tell you how that happened next time. Stay tuned. 

Year in Review 2018

Each year I create a list of goals for every area of my life. Throughout the year I work on my goals, track my progress, and then commit to posting my top accomplishments. This is my 10th year!

 

Writing

Novels

The Tower (working title- 97,000 words)

  • Completed the first draft of The Tower (working title). The manuscript clocked in at 97,000 words. 
  • Began 2nd draft. 

Year of the Assassin (94,000 word crime thriller)

  • Completed 1st draft of both a 10 page and a 2 page Synopsis
  • An editor for a large independent publisher asked to see the full manuscript based on the query letter. I submitted the full manuscript.
  • Queried with samples to 3 agents. I researched and wrote targeted letters. 
  • Sent query letters to 2 independent presses.

Fantasy Novella, (20,000 words)

  • Researched and wrote targeted letters.
  • Edited 2nd draft. – Put The Tower aside to work on edits.
  • Completed 20k word manuscript and cover letter.
  • Submitted to open call at major publisher.
  • Submitted a revised version 16,000 words to major science fiction and fantasy. magazine. “There’s some good writing here. Hope you’ll consider us in the future.”
  • Submitted revised version to a major contest.

 

  • Short stories

This year I spent  extra time on short fiction.

  • Wrote or reimagined 7 short stories approximately 25,000 words in total.
  • Submitted stories  to 11 markets.

 

Reading – Notable Fiction read in 2018

  • The Big Bopper by Reb MacRath
  • The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons 
  • The War of Art  by Stephen Pressfield
  • The Terror by Dan Simmons 
  • American Assassin by Vince Flynn
  • The Moore House by Tony Trembley 
  • Headhunter by Michael Slade 
  • Legion by William Peter Blatty

 Reviews 

  • Reviewed The Big Bopper
  • Reviewed The Moore House

Martial arts

Unlike last year, I spent less time attending martial arts seminars and more time writing.

  • Attended Drowning in Kali III at the Derderian Academy of Martial Arts.

Home training included:

  • Stick, double stick, stick & knife, Filipino Boxing.
  • Western Boxing, JKD combinations, kick boxing, shadowboxing, heavy bag work. HIIT training.
  • Karate/TKD/TSD Kata/Hyung.
  • Kendo sword cuts.
  • Weight Lifting.
  • Body weight exercises.

Health

  • Ophthalmology – No change = good!
  • Optometry- Slight change but no need to change glasses. 
  • 1st Dental cleaning – gold star.
  • 2nd Dental cleaning and X-rays – gold star.
  • Signed up for temporary insurance and than insurance at Patty’s new job. 
  • Had to get new referrals for specialists.
  • I was able to reduce Pepcid AC usage. 
  • Blood work and fasting glucose. All testing normal. 
  • Annual physical – Gold star. My weight was up 3 lbs since my last physical, but the doctor didn’t seem concerned with it. It’s all muscle, I tell ya! 
  • Got a flu shot.

Family

  • Celebrated Patty’s milestone birthday at Toyo Japanese Steak House.
  • Called parents twice a week to keep in touch.
  • Visited Grand Niece and Nephew in CT for birthday.
  • Went to see a movie with my parents.
  • Went to see a movie with my dad.
  • Wished and/or celebrated family birthdays. 
  • Celebrated my birthday with a Grandma’s of New England coffee cake (my favorite!). Patty ordered and had it shipped to me.
  • Had my first Facetime chat with my Grand Niece and Nephew.
  • Kept in touch with my former college English professor through email.
  • Attended my Brother-in-Law’s mother’s funeral and attended the fellowship at Kamahlot in Templeton. 
  • Called to wish my Aunt a happy birthday.
  • Called my brother.
  • Took my mom, dad, and aunt to Texas Roadhouse for Mother’s Day.
  • Went out with my mom and dad for Pizza for father’s day.
  • Congratulated my 2nd cousin on his 7th dan in Judo (5th dan from Kodakan). 
  • Babysat for my Grand Niece and nephew.
  • Had breakfast with my parents at Foxwoods.
  • My Auntie Anna passed away this year. She will be missed.
  • Assisted Patty with her transition to a new job.
  • Celebrated Christmas at Junior’s Deli at Foxwoods with my parents. Brought my brother and sis-in-law in on the celebration through FaceTime.
  • After Christmas get together and house warming with Patty’s family at sister-in-law’s new house in CT.

Spiritual

  • Continued nightly prayers.
  • Lit candle in remembrance of my sister.
  • Had Good Friday and Easter dinner with Patty.
  • Kept Passover to the best of my ability.
  • Brought Patty to the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy.

Cars

  • Patty bought a 2017 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring fully loaded for work. -Top goal!
  • Performed general maintenance on Patty’s car.
  • Performed general maintenance on my car.
  • Upgraded to AAA Plus.

House

  • Had a chimney sweep company clean our chimney.
  • Leak test completed on our AC system.
  • New condenser coil installed.
  • Bees exterminated.
  • Cleaned and organized walk in closet.

Fun & Travel

  • Stayed at Marriot Renaissance in Providence, RI.
  • Met one of Patty’s old co-workers for lunch at Mohegan Sun at The Hash House.
  • Spent a weekend in Freeport Maine.
  • Visited the Capron Park Zoo in Attleboro.
  • Attended Steely Dan & Doobie brother’s Concert at Xfinity Center.
  • Went to see James Taylor at Tanglewood with one of Patty’s Co-workers. Watched. Fireworks on July 4th in Albany NY. Stayed at Fairfield Inn & Suites for 3 nights. Got a deal by buying points.
  • Attended the Mohegan Sun Whiskey Union.

Whiskeys sampled:

  • Laphroaig 10
  • Ardbeg An Oa
  • Glendalough 7 – Irish Whiskey
  • Highland Park 12
  • Macallan Sherry Oak 12
  • Nikka Coffee Grain Whiskey
  • Ragtime Rye
  • Singleton 12
  • Suntori Toki
  • Glenfiddich 15
  • Monkey Shoulder

 

  • Sampled Bulleit Burbon – at Foxwoods.

 

  • Traveled with Patty for work to NY and utilized the time for a writing retreat.

AV/Tech

  • Upgraded Drop Box for Scrivener files.
  • Upgraded to High Sierra and Mojave.
  • Canceled PS Vue and switched to Directv Now.
  • Canceled Sprint and returned to Verizon.

Movies Watched at a Cinema

  • 15:17 to Paris – Cinemaworld in Fitchburg with parents.
  • Death Wish (2018) – Cinemaworld in Fitchburg with my dad.
  • Mission Impossible: Fallout  – Providence IMAX
  • The Nun – Providence IMAX with Patty.
  • Peppermint – North Attleboro Showcase 4k projection and recliners.
  • Halloween (2018) – Regal Cinemas Fishkill, NY. 
  • Creed II – Regal Cinemas Fishkill, NY.

That’s it for 2018. See you in 2019… Happy New Year!!!

 

 

The Witch (2015): Alternate Ending

Last night we streamed The Witch (2015) on Amazon Prime. This was the first time I had watched this film. I had heard good things, and I wasn’t disappointed. I usually spend time discussing the movie with my wife, and, if the movie has subtext, we spend time analyzing it. This analysis led me to think about an alternative way to end the film.  I like the original ending, I think it works, but I wanted to present a “quieter” version that I think works with the themes and still completes the character arc. Having some author friends who write novelizations, I was inspired to novelize a reimagined ending as fan fiction. Since the film takes place during the 17th century, I had a little trouble with the piece of dialog I needed to write. I still don’t like it, but I think it’s close enough to get the idea. And just so we’re clear, if you haven’t seen the movie yet–here be Spoilers!

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The Witch (2015): An Ending Reimagined

Thomasin looked down at her mother, the woman who had given birth to her, the woman she had just killed. Panic receded and was replaced with a wave of numbness. A sense of calm overcame her. She would not, could not, think of her family, or the preceding moments that had left her alone in this world. Instead, Thomasin picked up the bloodied billhook and strode off to her brother’s grave. Once there, she scooped up earth with her hands until there was enough of a depression that she could deposit the agriculture implement and bury it with loose dirt.

Retracing her steps, she began her preparation. She removed two eggs from the chicken coop and placed them in a satchel. Then she removed one chicken, the beast squawking as she did. She brought the bird over to her father’s tree stump where he had spent so much time splitting wood. Something that she had derided him for, but she wouldn’t think of that now. Couldn’t think of it. She had splitting to do of her own.

Using her father’s hatchet, she cleanly removed the head from the chicken. The force of the blade connected with the wood, making a hard thunk. Once the bird had stopped it’s spasms she placed the still warm carcass in her satchel, returned to the coop to snatch a second chicken, and then repeated the process.

Returning to her home for the last time, Thomasin thought about removing her bloodied garments but despite the disgust she felt wearing them, thought better of it. Instead, she grabbed more items she would need and placed a burlap shawl over her shoulders. All she wanted to do was sleep, but she could not. She had to be on the move before nightfall.

As her last act, she leashed Black Phillip with a rough braided rope. The goat gave no resistance. With her satchel strapped across her body, and Black Phillip in tow, she made her way back to the road she and her family had used to find their place in the world over a year ago.

Thomasin walked, thinking little, still numb, a numbness she wasn’t sure would ever recede. The forest around her had lost its color, and what there was of the sun had lost its warmth.

As night fell all around her, she had no choice but to stop and make camp. She tied Black Philip securely to a tree, far enough away from her camp that the rope would not allow him to reach her. She poured out some oats that would have been used to feed the horse, careful to give only enough to sustain him over night so that the food would last until she reached her destination.

Stoking a fire, (how many times had she watched her father or her mother do it? She couldn’t remember) the warmth of the blaze elusive to her skin, she plucked and then roasted the chicken over a spit, using branches whittled with her father’s hunting knife.

Her stomach filled, but her soul empty, she propped up against a tree and waited for daylight.

The next morning she broke camp. Black Philip had not escaped his confinement. Together they made their way down what felt like an endless road. How long this went on she could not remember, and her condition never changed. She could not shake the numbness or the emptiness within, and the world around her only reflected her depression.

Finally, the high walls that protected the plantation could be seen in the distance. The sight did not give her joy. She was sure nothing ever would. Once at the gates, she made a fist and pounded. Waited. Then pounded again. Finally the wooden doors groaned opened. The men who answered, who dressed in the same way as her father had, whose children she had grown up with, looked at her with pity. She did not want to be pitied.

They sent for the Governor and his two magistrates, and in short order, the three men who had sentenced her family to exile stormed through a growing crowd to look quizzically at the young woman, her clothing covered in dried blood, and the black goat that stood behind her on a leash.

“Mine family. Suffered I did to watch them die. Killed they be, by a hostile tribe,” Thomasin said, staring at the ground. Then she looked up. “Survived, I did. Alone.”

The governor nodded his head, a look of supreme sorrow darkening his expression. He waved her in, and the crowd parted to let her and Black Phillip through.

Crossing the threshold, they entered the throng, and the gates shut behind them.

End.

Review of American Nocturne

American Nocturne

Hank Schwaeble delivers the goods in this collection of short noir fiction. Each story is compelling and masterfully crafted. There isn’t a bad story in the bunch. Plus you get to read the amazing introduction by Jonathan Maberry.

Here are some of my favorites:

American Nocturne – A dime store detective attempts to solve the most baffling case of his life. This tale will leave you questioning reality.

Midnight Bogey Blues – How do you get rid of a boogeyman? Read this story and find out. You might not like the answer, but you’ll enjoy reading it.

Gomorrah – A story about the darker side of destiny. An initiation ritual gone wrong leads a participant down a very dark path.

Bone Daddy – This twisted tale goes into very dark territory. Made me feel a little queasy while reading it. A guilty pleasure for sure.

Phantom Hill – A weird western with a unique and compelling twist.

A Murmur of Evil – Who doesn’t like an officially sanctioned Kolchak: The Night Stalker novella?

Nurture – The argument between nature vs. nurture played out literarily and in the darkest sense. A bleak and disturbing tale with just a touch of politically incorrect humor.

There’s plenty more to enjoy. I can’t recommend this collection enough. Absolutely fantastic! If you like noir, have at it. You won’t be disappointed.

Buy american Nocturne here.

Wicked Tales: The Journal of the New England Horror Writers Volume III

I’m pleased to pass on this announcement from the newsletter of the New England Horror Writers:

NEHW ANNOUNCEMENT!

The New England Horror Writers (NEHW) are pleased to announce their third anthology! Submissions are now Closed!
Wicked Tales will debut at Anthocon (www.anthocon.com) during the annual convention in Portsmouth, NH on 6/6/15.
The book will be an open themed anthology, edited by Scott Goudsward, Daniel Keohane and David Price.
Cover Art by Ogmios

Here’s the Table of Contents:

Introduction by Chet Williamson

Kristin Dearborn Somebody’s Darling

Rob Smales Keepsakes

Christopher Golden The Hiss of Escaping Air

Howard Odentz Handsome

E. A. Black Fog Over Mons

Paul McMahon Bitemarks

Trisha J. Wooldridge Crocodile Below

Bracken MacLeod The Blood and the Body

K. H. Vaughn The Opacity of Saints

Holly Newstein Live With It

Rick Hautala Love on the Rocks

Peter Dudar & L.L. Soares Baby’s Breath

Sam Gafford My Brother’s Keeper

T.T. Zuma The Pawnshop

Matthew Barlett Master of Worms

David North-Martino Sat Down Inside her

John Goodrich Odd Grimson

Timothy P. Flynn A Rythmatic Creation of the Damned (poem)

Michael J. Arruda Created Woman

John Mclveen Eve

***

January in Review

In an attempt to keep some sort of momentum going with this blog, I’ve decided to give you an update on what I’ve been working on during the month of January. It’s been a pretty good month. I’m hoping to make a couple videos soon that will show how I go about goal setting and planning my year. Until then, I give you this…

Writing

Short Fiction

  • My SF/Horror story “Sat Down Inside Her” was accepted into the untitled 3rd annual New England Horror Writer’s anthology slated for an early summer release. More information to come.
  • I received a rejection from a top market with a “hope to see more stories from you in the future” from the editor. As one writer commented on FB, “I hope you know that’s a fabulous response.” Some of my non-writer friends don’t understand how a rejection can be a good thing. Suffice it to say that when an editor from a top pro market says he’d like to see more of your work, you know your writing is near or at the level of that market. All that it will take is writing a story that catches the editor’s fancy to get an acceptance letter. Maybe that and a little luck.  As you can well imagine, cracking this market has been put on  the top of my goal list.

Novels

  • Year of the Demon (Conspiracy/Crime Thriller): I began working on the 3rd draft of this 90,000 word novel.
  • The Tower (Paranormal Haunting/Woman in Jeopardy Crime Thriller) : I’m approximately 15,200 words or 61 pages into the first draft of this novel. Currently, I’m projecting that it will run about 90,000 words when completed.
  • Proxy Mate (Dystopian SF) : I’m approximately 11,250 words or 45 pages into what most likely will be a novella. At present, I have no idea how long this story will run.
  • Wolves of Vengeance (Multi-Genre Supernatural Thriller): has had an uptick is sales and borrows this month. Updating the book description, changing the genre descriptors, and gaining a couple more glowing reviews has seemed to help.

Reading

Family & Friends

  • Called my parents at least once per week.
  • Kept in contact with my aunt through email.
  • Celebrated Patty’s birthday.
  • Kept up with friends on social media.
  • Contacted my friend and former Gothic & Arthurian lit professor through email to stay in touch.
  • Lit a candle for my sister on the anniversary of her death.

Martial Arts

  • So many good seminars this month, and I wasn’t able to attend any of them. At least I got plety of training in at home.
  • Five or six rounds of shadowboxing at least 2x per week with Patty using the Bas Rutten MMA Workout audio CDs.
  • Practiced Kali sinawali
  • Continued practicing Naihanchi forms

Fitness & Health

  • Lost a half inch from my waist and about a pound of fat since I began tracking again.
  • Began using myfitnesspal again to track my weightloss and fitness goals.
  • Utilized the original P90X DVDs a few times this month, doing about 30 minutes each (focused on Core Synergistics and Back & Chest).
  • Had my semi-annual dental cleaning.

Cars

  • Had D service on my car, along with an oil change.
  • Had my car inspected and a parking light replaced.

Thing Goals

  • Bought a set of precision screwdrivers at Ace Hardware. I’m going to upgrade the memory in my Mac. That’s the plan, at least.

House

  • General cleaning and maintenance.

Whisky Tasting

  • I’ve enjoyed drinking Glenmorangie The Original and Glenlevit 12. I’m very new to the world of whisky snobbery, but I find that it suits me. Haha! I enjoyed a sample of Glenlevit 15, but didn’t notice much difference from the 12. Tried Talisker at the recomendation of some writer friends and have found it a very acquired taste. I’m not used to the smokey/peaty taste, and not sure I’ll ever like it. All is not lost, though. I’ll be bringing whatever is left to AnthoCon where I will be very happy to share!

General

  • I survived the Blizzard of 2015.
  • I got a haircut. I look almost human again. Almost…

Movies Watched:

  • World War Z ***
  • Escape Plan **
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier ****

I’ll create an addendum if I think of anything else.

Until next time…