Sunday, March 24, 2013

BLEEDING KANSAS Selected for Publication by SEVERED PRESS

I had posted “Chapter 17.1: Good Morning, Mr. Whitman” and was struggling with its followup when I got an e-mail from Severed Press, one of the premier print-and-online horror fiction presses in the English-speaking world. Turns out my good friend and author James Robert Smith  (The Flock, The Living End, the books he’s written as Robert Mathis Kurtz, etc.) had dropped a dime on me to the editors there. They’d looked, they liked, e-mails were exchanged. By the end of the week I had a contract and an advance. 

This was two weeks ago. You’d think I’d have been all over the Internet with the news. Well, here’s the thing: if you’d read Bleeding Kansas all the way from the beginning up until Chapter 17, you’d know I was building up to that end-of-second-act crisis point called the Darkest Hour. The best news of my life came as I was sweating calling “Chapter 17.1” Chapter 17 and moving on (which I did) and making this crucial set of scenes work. 

Yet whatever ideas I’d had for my Darkest Hour would not come together. I’ve managed a little over 4,000 words since that first e-mail from Severed Press. That’s 4,000 words in two weeks when I was sometimes throwing down 2,000 a day, and never less than 1,000.

With all this, and being in a general state of shock from the best news of my life—yes, I was as surprised at my reaction as anyone—I’ve done nothing more with the blog than follow the publisher’s suggestion to take down everything but the first few chapters. I wish I could say I’ve been writing furiously these past few weeks. No, I’ve been floundering. 

That I’ve finally managed to type some verbiage into this Blogger frame is a sign the Great Wall of Anxiety is coming down. I comfort myself knowing that the great Charles Bukowski, when offered a monthly stipend by publisher John Martin to quit his job, fell into writer’s block for several days after he agreed to Martin’s offer and quit his day job. Then Bukowski went into overdrive and finished his first novel, Post Office, in two weeks. When he handed the manuscript over to Martin, Martin reportedly said, “What’s this for?” And Bukowski said,  “Fear.”

Consider ex-convicts and longtime military personnel re-entering civilian life and you might get a handle on this. You get used to living a certain way for so long, no matter how constricted and miserable, and you don’t know how to do it any other way. Even if all you’ve dreamed of is getting out of your misery once you’re out—now what? 

“Well, bullshit on that!” I hear you and everyone else saying. “I’d be hittin’ the ground running!”

That’s what I said, too. But, hey, I’ll bet you’re special. Maybe it’ll be different for you. 

I had been working on Bleeding Kansas for nine and one-half months before Severed Press came a-callin’. And that nine and one-half months of work wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t spent seven months working on Grace Among the Dead. Before that I’d put in hours working on a collaboration with James Robert Smith that fell though. (His side of it became The Living End.) It wasn’t wasted time. Everything I’ve been doing since that day in October 2009 when I put the original Night of the Living Dead into the DVD player and started hassling with writing about life among the cannibal corpses has led to this.

Actually, everything since that January day in 1985 (that’s nineteen eighty-five) when I struggled with writing my first short story outside of college has led to this. And I could go back even further than that.

As the gamers say, I have leveled up. Adjustments are being made for the new level of difficulty. I’ve dreamed the dream. Now I have to live up to its reality.

As crises go, I’ll take it.
The trick, of course, is to keep getting back up.