The Art of Rejection

Meet Eddie. He’s one of many warm-bodied meat sacks from the cinematic opus Friday the 13th: Part VII – The New Blood. Eddie’s a struggling science-fiction writer who none of his friends take seriously because of his outlandish, very niche writing. Before he gets his throat cut in half, he rattles off one of the best inadvertently self-defeating owns of all time following his inability to get laid by Camp Crystal Lake’s meanest girl: “Rejection. Okay, fine. I can take it. I’ve been rejected by some of the finest science fiction magazines in the continental United States!”

Eddie is my spirit animal.

His struggle is my struggle.

(Except for the cut-throat thing.)

(So far.)

In a spiritual quasi-follow up to Purging the Bad Mojo; or, How I Learned To Avoid Committing Suicide Over Bad Reviews, I want to talk about another pitfall when it comes to writing: rejection. If you’re going to write, you’re going to be rejected. By agents, by publishers, by your readers, and by yourself. Every time I submit a story or a manuscript for consideration and it gets rejected, Eddie’s immortal words float through my brain, offering strength, determination, spirit, and just the right amount of harmless delusion: “I can take it.”

Rejection is a life’s certainty, whether you write or not, and though you don’t need any affirmation of it, I’m still going to pile on with my own personal experiences because it’s happening to me right now.

A year ago, I began submitting a manuscript for a novel, which I spent two years writing, to a carefully curated crop of independent, genre-friendly publishers. During this time, my opinion on my own creation had wavered in that murky gray area between “this is brilliant” and “bury this in the deepest hole and push a large boulder over it to keep the evil contained forever.” The day I was having determined the mood I was in, and affected my own opinion of my worth as a writer, so, if you’re like me, then whatever doubts you may have about your skills are soon accentuated the minute you make that next step and start testing the waters to determine if someone else is willing to give it a home – on their shelves, their websites, their hearts, and their quarterly financial reports. And if you’re like me, you can feel confident about something you’ve written until you know someone else’s eyes are on it, and then that confidence depletes, leaving behind nothing but the obvious flaws you should have caught on your day-one rewrite and casting a Batman-regulation spotlight on all the looming danger that was WITH YOU THE WHOLE TIME.

I firmly believe that if you choose to write fiction, you have a propensity for self-loathing. Not necessarily an overwhelming propensity, but…it’s there. We writers are masochists hiding from the world while at the same time positioning ourselves as artists with something to say and share (and I threw up a little just at the mere thought of applying the word “artist” to myself – that’s where the self-loathing comes in). Within us dwells a conflict between two worlds that are entirely at odds with each other: as writers, we want to create, but we don’t want to be live on stage when we do it. We feel compelled to share an intimate part of ourselves, but we want people to read our words with their voice and bring our story to life with their imagination. We want readers to be involved in the process of creation instead of them sitting back like passive bystanders and listening to a song that’s going to sound identical from person to person, or watching a movie that dictates through sight and sound what they should be feeling. We write what we have to say and then we set those words sailing in hopes they’ll find the eyes or ears they were meant to…and once those words are finally polished, published, and shipped to our readers’ homes, we become removed from our latest work because it has to speak for itself now, and we’re probably already thinking about the next thing. (This may just be me, but to date I’ve written four books, and regardless of whatever positive or negative reaction they’ve received, I never want to think or talk about them ever again – they are like exes I never should’ve dated whose contacts I long ago deleted.)

As of this writing, I’ve submitted my unpublished novel to nineteen independent publishers, and as of this writing, I’ve received five formal rejections and an assumed eleven more because the anticipated turnaround time from submission to decision has now been exceeded by several months with no official decision dispatched from said publishers (which could be its own rant–the treatment of authors by indie publishers–but that’s for another time). Such a reaction to something I’ve written, which has seen both my unabashed enthusiasm and my total dismissal, inevitably validates that latter self-evaluation – translation: if the nameless publisher that releases books with truly hideous cover art and has content errors all over their website doesn’t want my book, then jeepers, it has to suck. And if my book sucks that bad, why the hell didn’t I see it coming?

Personally, when rejection occurs, it can generate a lot of questions. What is it that sucks? Is it the story I’ve chosen to write, the way I’ve chosen to write it, or is it me in general? Do I suck? Sure, some or all of those rejection letters are quick to assuage your fragile ego by reminding you that “these things are subjective” and “another publisher may feel differently,” but all of those paranoid internal questions about you or your manuscript sucking are still relevant, too. How many writers continue to write and suck while believing they’re good because no one close to them has the guts to tell them the truth? How many writers are so in love with themselves that they believe their every new string of words is greater than their previous? (This is a thing, because numerous sitcoms have done gags based on someone sucking at something and not knowing – and TV never lies.) Ideally, rejection should make you take a hard look at your writing and ask yourself: Is this something you should keep trying to pursue professionally? Should you keep writing book after book until something clicks? And as for the books that publishers don’t want to touch, do you dare–gasp–self-publish? Or finally, do you assume it’s just as bad as you sometimes believe it to be and upload a free PDF to be done with it?

Whether or not you suck is the hardest thing to know. We’ve all heard the stories about how many rejections the likes of Stephen King and J.K. Rowling received before they finally found the right person or place to give their creations a home, and that should give us hope…but also make us despair. The chasm between admitting maybe we’re not a total failure and maybe we’re just as good as those two juggernauts is the size of the entire universe. One thing I can say with confidence is if you love writing, then you should keep doing it, whether or not you’ve got a future planned for your creations beyond their resting comfortably forever on your laptop.

I genuinely, without conflict, sidestepping the look of false modesty, believe that I suck…but I know I’m not going to stop. And heck knows, if I’m not going to stop, you shouldn’t either, regardless of how many rejections come your way. Because you can take it.

Do it for Eddie. 

The Toilet Zone: Number Two

Haha, yes, this is a real book. HellBound Books Publishing accepted one of my short stories, “Dear Diary,” for their “flush fiction” series, a sequel book to their previous collection of short fiction designed to be read while yer ridin’ the ol’ porcelain pony. The Toilet Zone: Number Two is now available on all the things. (More details on the publisher’s website.)

Imagine, if you will, you’re traveling through the unknown, hellbound, with no roadmap or stars to guide you. The light fades as you descend into a shadow realm where supernatural terrors make their lair and evil lurks at every turn. Here, dead things don’t always stay dead, for this is a world where things that shouldn’t be… are, and things that should be are not.

In this world, it takes between 2,500 and 4,000 reading words to pay a visit to the smallest, but terrifyingly necessary, room, and stories are written precisely to chill the bones as you wait for nature to make its call.

You open up the book, and one of the 32 tales skulking within its hellish pages chooses you…

It’s too late to turn back now. You are about to set foot into another dimension, so best watch out for that signpost up ahead…

You’ve just crossed over into… The Toilet Zone.

Beyond the Levee and Other Ghostly Tales

Traces of the afterlife exist all around us. We are haunted by entities that linger and refuse to let go. Is it a need for relevance, revenge, or bittersweet regret which bind these pitiful spirits? Can they find peace? Do they deserve it? The ghost stories held within explore what happens when the unsettled reach out from Beyond the Levee.

This collection, now available from Amazon, features three stories by yours truly. This tidy anthology features a plethora of authors with different sensibilities, so there’s definitely a little something for everyone.  Check it out this coming Halloween season.

Blog

In case you haven’t noticed, I don’t update this site very often. Unless I have a new book coming out (and I currently have one in second-draft phase), I don’t have a lot of news to share. To sidestep that, I figured I’d share a link to my personal blog — one that shares the name of my first collection, The End of Summer, but one that also predates said book by a couple years. The blog started off as a way for me to start writing with more “discipline,” and force me to commit to writing at least one thing a week, because I’d stepped away from writing for a long time and knew I needed to re-embrace it. It even directly led to the book once I realized how much I’d missed it.

The blog is basically a collection of all the movie reviews and retrospectives I’ve written for other film websites over the years. I’m slowly working to compile them all in one place for future generations of Internetters to peruse long after I’m sucking dirt.

Stop by and bookmark The End of Summer. I try to post daily, even if it’s just a picture or some random and very weird news story. I’ve been dismantling, deleting, and retiring most of my social media accounts because they are used for evil and it’s depressing to see how hive-minded and cultish people are becoming, so if you want a glimpse into my non-life, this’ll have to do. Besides, it’ll keep you company until my first novel is finally ready to infect the masses.

Ghosts, Goblins, Murder, and Madness

perf5.000x8.000.inddFeaturing twenty-one different voices hailing from five different countries and eleven states, Ghosts, Goblins, Murder, and Madness is certain to strike a chord with every horror aficionado.

Devil’s Night, Day of the Dead, and Halloween has been celebrated around the world in one form or another, beginning with the Ancient Celts over two-thousand years ago. For some revelers, it’s a time for guising, or dressing up in elaborate costume; for others, it’s a time for practical jokes and mischief, and for some, it’s a reverent occasion to acknowledge the thin line between earth and the spirit world.

In this same vein, the stories here provide a wide-angle lens at what comprises the unique expanse of horror fiction today. From hobgoblins and apparitions, to haunted dwellings and cursed possessions, to good intentions gone awry and evil ones turned on the perpetrator, these twenty tales will unsettle, frighten, tickle, and caution, and in the end, readers may take heed before ever again accompanying their children trick-or-treating, striking up conversations in anonymous chat rooms, or fortifying their homes in an attempt to prevent Halloween vandalism.

Release Date: August 17, 2018

We Have a Cover

perf5.000x8.000.inddGhosts, Goblins, Murder, & Madness: Twenty Tales of Halloween has a cover! Its release date is still unconfirmed, though it’s tentatively targeted for a late August release. The collection was curated and is being published by Dark Ink, previous publisher of Kane Hodder’s official biography Unmasked: The True Life Story of the World’s Most Prolific, Cinematic Killer, and Grande Illusions: The Art and Technique of Special Make-Up Effects from the Films of Tom Savini. (They previously published my book too, and it still wows me I share the same home as these horror titans.) I’m expecting the official synopsis for the anthology to appear any day now; when it does, naturally I’ll be sharing it here.

New Short Story Coming Soon(ish)

phantasm-angus-scrimmI know. It’s been quiet around here for a while. But I’ve finally got some news.

A new Halloween anthology is coming out this coming autumn season from Dark Ink, the publisher who released my collection The End of Summer: Thirteen Tales of Halloween, and it will feature a new story by yours truly. This was a story I kicked around for a few years — something I’d originally written for a book of short horror stories geared toward younger readers that has yet to come to fruition and probably never will. Something about this particular story had me coming back to it more and more to gussy it up, and soon the themes within it became more mature. Once that happened, the gore quotient was upped a little bit as well. I love me a good story or flick where someone’s head falls off, but that’s not something I normally prefer to write. However, for this one, I wanted to push the envelope it a little. By the end, I realized I’d inadvertently written an homage to films like Phantasm, Dead & Buried, and Stephen King’s IT (but no fear all you coulrophobics — the story is clownless.) It also made me realize that I like to write stories about people telling stories, which was an interesting development and it’s left me wondering why.

The title of this new collection is Ghosts, Goblins, Murder, and Madness: Twenty Tales of Halloween. There’s no firm release date as of yet, but it’s tentatively planned for late summer/early fall.

Naturally, there will be updates to this as they are available.

Weird NJ Revisited

CourierPostThe Courier Post, a local New Jersey-based newspaper, recently reprinted an article I wrote for Weird NJ Magazine about ten years ago. I’m not really sure what prompted them to do so, but obviously I’m not complaining. It’s weird to see it suddenly come roaring back from obscurity and making the rounds on social media. Because of this recent development, I’m now a very rich man so I’m off to buy several boats.

Nah, just kidding. See you tomorrow, misery job.

Halloween in Head and Heart

Another day, another kind message about The End of Summer!

You probably get this a lot with other Halloween enthusiasts, but I’m saying it anyhow: I think you’re my long lost brother from another mother and separated at birth! (Actually I’m probably old enough to be your mom.) When I read the back of your End of Summer book, I died! I’ve loved Halloween since I was a little kid. I love Autumn, and John Carpenter is my fave! I just saw him live in concert! He does all his music from all his movies! Anyhow, thanks so very much for all the right words to say about All Hallow’s Eve! My home’s already decorated, 90%. One room is Halloween all year! And I was remarried last Halloween! I’m old, but I’ll never be too old to have Halloween in my head and heart daily! I just actually got the book, and just the prologue made me cry, laugh, and jump for joy! Thanks, and Happy 🎃 !

Thank you, Fran! Happy Halloween to you as well!