The Scribe’s Arcanum: Anatomy of a First Sale—Part 5: The Aftermath 

The Scribe’s Arcanum:

Anatomy of a First Sale—Part 5: The Aftermath 

I had spent six years working toward my first short story sale, and in that time, many things in my life had changed. Many things were about to change. One of the biggest: I was now a paid published author. 

In this day and age of self-publishing, being accepted and paid by an editor is a distinction worth mentioning.  Although, there’s nothing wrong with going the indie route, I’ve done it myself, it’s just a different situation. 

The sale also meant I could keep my HWA affiliate member status. I had completed a huge goal, and I felt like I was on a roll. 

Before making my first sale, I had committed myself to researching the opening of a small business. Of course, as soon as I made that decision, I ended up making my first fiction sale. In hindsite, I probably should have marshaled all my efforts into my writing career. Instead, I put most of my time resources into pursuing a business while also earning a Bachelor’s degree. With all that, we also visited California and Florida. Yes, 2006 was a very busy year!!!

Even so, I began attending author signings and conventions to jumpstart my networking. Feeling like a real writer for the first time allowed me to connect with other writers without feeling so much like a poser. 

One of the signings I attended was of a local writer who had had success in both the mass market and the small press. He told me that his first small press book had earned him an advance of $250 and seemed genuinely impressed that my first short fiction sale had earned me twice as much. It was certainly a great confidence booster. 

I also attended the Northeastern Writers Conference (NECON), a cozy and informal Rhode Island convention where the convention goers are welcoming and treat you like family. 

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An amazing beginning, but it wasn’t going to get any easier. In the next installment, I’ll tell you what it took to make my second sale and how it was a sale that almost never happened. 

See you next time. 

Greatshell

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The Scribe’s Arcanum: Anatomy of a First Sale—Part 4

The Scribe’s Arcanum:

Anatomy of a First Sale—Part 4

Unsure of who was calling me from Canada, I decided to check my email. I had just heard a notification, and the Canadian caller had yet to finish leaving a voicemail. 

I saw the newest email in my inbox and sighed. It was a response from Dark Recesses Press regarding the contest I had entered. In that moment, I believed I had received another rejection. How could it be anything else? I had suffered rejection for six long years, and knew nothing else. I was getting used to being disappointed. 

Pulling up the email, I scanned it quickly. 

“Blah, blah, blah… Rejection,” I said to my wife who was reading over my shoulder.  

“Wait!” Patty said, sounding excited. “I think you won.” 

“Yeah, right,” I said. “There’s no possible way I won that contest. Don’t you understand? I only get rejections.”

“No, read it again,” Patty said. 

Sure. Sure. Let’s prolong the misery. 

I began to read the email again. This time I did so slowly, methodically, and once I saw the part where the publisher had congratulated me on winning the contest, time seemed to slow. 

The room got brighter. I really couldn’t believe it. Out of something like 90 submissions, the editors had chosen my story. 

Then I realized that the publisher lived in Canada. Had she tried to call me? That certainly would make sense. 

I dialed into our voice mail and listed to her message. She wanted to personally congratulate me on winning the contest. 

I had to call her back! I had to call her back immediately!  Getting her number off the caller ID, I frantically dialed, but still felt I was living in slow motion.

When she answered, and after I introduced myself, time not only snapped back to normal, but accelerated. I have no idea what I said to her, but I do remember she was quick to get of the phone with me. I had gone from slow motion into manic overdrive, barraging her with a rapid fire word salad. At least she could tell I was excited!  

In the weeks that followed, I received a $500.00 check, a $40.00 Shocklines’ Edition of The Priest of Blood by Douglas Clegg (“Read that book, David!” Clegg would later tell me on the message board. And I did. It’s a fantastic novel.), and received a handwritten note from the publisher. 

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I would also receive publication on the Dark Recesses website, and in the PDF version that was available on CD ROM. This was all before the e-book revolution. 

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Of course, I also had bragging rights, and for the first time felt like a real writer.  And that’s how I became a paid, published author, and made my first sale. 

You can do the same with just a little talent, a lot of hard work, and plenty of persistence. 

In the final part of this story, I’ll tell you about the aftermath, and how I made the sale count for more than just a writing credit. 

DRP Graven Image

The Scribe’s Arcanum: Anatomy of a First Sale—Part 3

The Scribe’s Arcanum:

Anatomy of a First Sale—Part 3

Just about to give up hope on my vampire short story, “Despair,” I spied a contest at Dark Recesses Press. Time was growing short for getting a sale that would qualify me to remain a member of the Horror Writer’s Association. 

Dark Recesses Press had their 2nd annual Deja Vu Horror Contest coming up. This contest was all about familiar horror tropes.  For a small entry fee, I could submit a story that was either a parody of a genre trope or do something new and unique with the trope. I had just the story… or so I thought! 

I had no illusions of winning this contest, but with the story off working in the background at least I could dream.  As such, I gave it a quick read through and sent it by email to my wife for a quick proofread.

My wife reviewed the story. Having grown as an editor since her last revision,  she realized I had a character who served no other purpose than to die. She advised me to extricate the character from the story.

Impossible! There was no way I could remove the character. She was integral to the story. I was overtaken by frustration. I had a novel to get back to and new short stories to write. I didn’t have the time to complete a total rewrite nor did I have any way to get rid of this character without the structure of the story collasping. 

Deciding to sleep on it, the next morning I awoke with an answer. It was certainly one of those eureka moments. 

I realized I could employ a technique filmakers use when adapting a novel. They take two or more characters, and make them into a composite. In this way, they’re able to have one character do the work of two or more. This is necessary sometimes when condensing a long novel into a two-hour movie. 

The reduction of this character would shorten my story, but it would still be well within the bounds of the required word count. I went to work in earnest. 

In the process, I had to revise and rearrange the story, making it much tighter in the process. 

Patty read my new version and completed another proofread. We were both happy with the final results. Essentially, with all the changes, it was a new and improved story. 

Now, not only would I be breaking the rule of sending to the top markets first, I was also going against the advice of paying a fee to enter a contest. Money is supposed to flow to the writer. But the entry fee was small ($11.00 I believe), and I had interacted with the publisher, and one of the editors, on a horror message board. They were good people, and I knew their hearts were in the right place. In the coming months they were bringing  Dark Recesses Press from a micro-zine to a semi-pro web magazine. They were doing everything right, and I wasn’t going to let any well meaning advice get in my way of getting another rejection. No, sir! Not me. 

With nothing to lose, I paid my fee and sent the story off through email. Then I tried to forget about the whole thing. There was no way I was going to win, anyway. I just wanted to keep up my momentum. Maybe someday I would make a sale. Either way, I couldn’t stop writing. I had the bug, and I had it bad. 

One night in 2006 my wife and I were sitting on the couch with our laptops, the TV buzzing white-noise in the foreground.  The phone rang and I got up to to check the caller ID. To my surprise, someone was calling us from Canada. Who the hell was calling us from the Great White North? Most likely a wrong number, I thought. Yet, I wondered if it could be some long lost family member, my dad has people in Canada. I had also interacted with some Canadian writers on the horror message board. Why would they be calling me? I could daydream about someone wanting to collaborate, but the idea seemed absurd. I didn’t even have a first sale yet.  It was fun to dream, though. 

I returned to the couch, and then I heard the chime of an email notification. I clicked through to check it. Both the phone call and email were about to change my life. 

I’ll tell you about it next time. 

 

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! 

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. 

The Scribe’s Arcanum – Intro

I’m reinstating The Scribe’s Arcanum. 

Wait!

What is The Scribe’s Arcanum, you ask?

Great question! 

The Scribe’s Arcanum is just a tongue and cheek way of saying: the writer’s secrets.  

Back in the early 90s, as a young man transitioning into my early 20s, I felt I needed a way to regain my focus and steer my life in a successful and prosperous direction. Having lived life for the most part scattershot, I began keeping a journal on the family Commodore 64/128,  utilizing a rudimentary word processor in an effort to motivate myself to take action in every area of my life. 

Interestingly, I wrote this journal just like a  modern blog in a time before the internet as we know it (I think there were some newsgroups and such available using very low baud modems, but I didn’t have access to this nascent technology at the time). That’s right, I wrote it as if people could somehow read the journal I was creating on a giant floppy disk. I’m a futurist! Haha! 

Writing the journal/blog helped me to set goals and take action toward my dreams. In short order, I returned to school, earning an associate’s degree (I would later go on to earn a bachelor’s degree and graduate magna cum laude), earned a black belt in old school Korean Karate (Tae Kwon Do/Tang Soo Do), back in a time when a black belt meant something, and met the woman of my dreams, who would later become my wife. 

Today, I have decided to return to The Scribe’s Arcanum  as a way to share my goals and accomplishments as I continue to work on my writing career, while sharing any tips, tricks, or secrets I may have picked up along the way. This time The Scribe’s Arcanum is not so much for me as it is for you. I hope I can give you information along with some encouragement to help you with your writing goals. I  also hope you’ll stick with me through this  journey. Be assured that I’ve already written a group of blog posts yet to be published, so if you follow my blog, I’ll be able to update the content on a consistent basis. 

I hope you’ll get a lot of value from this blog and wish you all the best with your hobby or career.

Welcome to The Scribe’s Arcanum! 

Until we meet next time… 

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!!!