Friday, November 4, 2011

Editorial November 2011 e-issue #29

By Nickolas Cook
The Black Glove Magazine

This is going to be a personal sort of editorial this month, a little peek into the world of a struggling horror writer, who also happens to edit an online horror culture and entertainment magazine, and is a martial arts student/instructor, with a fairly severe recent handicap to deal with while trying to keep ahead of contracted deadlines. So I warn you now, if this sort of personal open letter stuff annoys you or bores you, please feel free to look at the pretty pictures, play the videos below and/or skip this section. I felt the need to talk my way past the stress this month. No meltdowns or anything, just some honest talk about where I'm at in my life and my writing.

It’s been a very hectic couple of months for me, writing wise. I have several novels all coming out within weeks of each other, so I’ve been busy doing my edits on the novels before turning them into their respective publishers, so that they may hopefully do their own edits on each work, thereby making me look even better. And some of the books I am still in the process of writing, so I’m very much under the gun these days to get hundreds of thousands of words written in a fairly short amount of time.

See, I sent out all these submissions all at once to different publishers—some for finished materials and others for perspective material which still needed finishing up. Silly me…I should have known what kind of trouble I was asking for by doing so. Ever hear the old adage: Be careful what you wish for, it might just come true?

Yeah, that’s pretty much how I’ve been feeling in the last few weeks since I suddenly got a deluge of contracts for not one or two books, but five books…all in a row.

Three of those books make up a zombie apocalypse trilogy called CITIES IN DUST (BOOK ONE: DISINTEGRATION, BOOK TWO: DEAD SOULS and BOOK THREE: DOMINION), so we’re talking about a lot of structuring which needs to take place between each novel, so that the narrative and the character arcs all fall into line and lend themselves to a sense of clean, smooth aesthetic. On top of that, I am approaching this from an angle which has never been used in zombie fiction before, and also using John Bunyon’s “A Pilgrim’s Progress” as a sort of narrative outline for some of the characters in each of the books. It’s something which I’ve been planning for several years, in my head, putting pieces together a bit at a time, until I felt I had the gist of where I wanted this trilogy to start and where I wanted it to end. Now writing all the stuff in the middle is where I get to have fun with it. Let’s just hope I can pull it off.

Another book that will be due very shortly is the all original, novel length sequel to my bestselling book to date, ALICE IN ZOMBIELAND, a mashup of Lewis Carroll’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND and zombies. My new book will be called ALICE AND THE QUEEN OF THE DEAD. I’m hoping it finds as large a readership as the mashup has. If not, then I can at least feel as if I tried to add my own voice to the ongoing legacy of Mr. Carroll’s enduring story.

And the last novel I have due by the end of this week is the first book in a series of non-horror novels called DEAD DOG, which features a couple of reoccurring good old boys called Max and Little Billy. They’re best friends who have both recently returned from their tours of duty in the Vietnam War and now with the war over, they’ve both come back home to settle again. They both grew up living between the legal and illegal, running moonshine and whatever else they needed to do to survive in a depressed circa 1970s Southern economy. DEAD DOG finds them going up against the local redneck drug czar when they do their informal investigation on the torture death of a young boy who is the son of a well known local good for nothing, abusive shitheel with connections to the drug czar.

Although these won’t be horror novels per say, they will each deal with the darker sides of the human animal, much like Joe R, Lansdale’s “Hap Collins and Leonard Pine” series, Robert B. Parker’s “Spenser” series, John D, MacDonald’s “Travis McGee” series, and one of my new favorite authors of the last few years, Dennis Lehane’s “Kenzie-Gennaro” series of outstanding novels. I’m hoping that DEAD DOG will allow me to continue writing more books with these guys, as I’ve come to feel very close to them in the past two years of writing the first two books, DEAD DOG and the 2nd book which I am finishing now, DON’T FEAR THE REAPER, which will pit them against their own personal demons as they track down a roving serial killer who has come to town to kill young women.

These books are probably the best I’ve written to date, and they’re special to me because they’re set in my hometown, Yulee, Florida. It was, and probably still is by most standards, not much more than a little backwards redneck community. Although I understand from people whom I knew growing up who still reside there that it has grown quite a bit since I last saw it in the spring of 1997.

To top all of this off, I turned 42 a couple of weeks ago.

When I was in my early twenties, I was head over heels in love with Clive Barker's writing. I read everything and anything I could find by him or about him. I set myself the goal of being a professional writer by the same age as Mr. Barker, who was one of THE rising horror star towards the late 1980s, at least he was here in America. Most of the horror writers I loved during that period were around that same age range and had "made it". I didn't get my first novel published until I was 38 years old and let's just say it didn't exactly take the genre by storm. In fact, I'm willing to bet BALEFUL EYE (which is currently out of print with the original publisher now, StoneGarden.Net, but is looking good for a reprint with another publisher in 2012) probably didn't sell more than a couple of dozen copies. Not what I'd call an impactful publication, right?

Now, as I make my way towards the half century mark, I find myself examining what that term means , to "make it".

Have I "made it" yet? I've had several books published in the last five years, one of which has sold several thousand copies, which is more than most horror writers in the small press can say, and a short story collection which is selling very, very slowly, but is selling. And I have as many again coming out within the next 12 months.

Does this mean I've "made it"? Hell if I know. I just keeping writing and submitting and signing contracts and hoping that at some point the momentum of so many publications, name recognition and more skillful storytelling will eventually make me feel as if I've "made it". Right now, I just feel like I'm trying to run up an ever-steepening hill, trying to do better with every new story or novel I write.

But what the heck does any of this have to do with this month’s editorial? Not much, other than to explain why there was no editorial last month and why there won’t be much of one this month, maybe for the next couple of months, in fact.

Getting these five books out as per the contracted deadline is super important to me right now. After all, as much as I love writing and editing for this online magazine, and sharing my passion for all things horror related, being a professional writer has been my dream since I was a little kid. I didn’t have much a shot to do so when I was in my twenties and thirties because I had a full time job and other responsibilities to attend, which made it difficult to sit as much as I needed to put the time into honing my craft to a level that is good enough to make people want to buy anything I write.

Hell, I’m not so sure I’ve attained that level even now, but the difference is, now, I don’t have much of choice.

Since my injury in 2009- a complete rupture of my right Achilles tendon- the subsequent multiple operations, and the chronic infections which ate away most of the repaired tendon, part of my heel bone and a good chunk of flesh which became necrotic because of it, I’ve been pretty much unable to do a real 9 to 5 job like I had before. What I have been able to do, once I pulled myself far enough out of the deep depression in which all of this left me, I had the time I needed to write myself well again. That’s how DEAD DOG came about. I wrote about how I felt, and before I knew it, I had a protagonist (Max) and his best friend (Little Billy), who, somewhere by the middle of the novel, an alter ego, a sort Yang to Max’s Ying. I began to speak through these guys, telling my own stories about my growing up in Yulee, and thereby getting rid of a lot of the demons which were riding my ass when I discovered that I was no longer a young man and that I was no longer physically sound…that, indeed, I was handicapped. And let me tell you: You may think to yourself getting a life long limp and the inability to perform ballistic actions with one leg isn’t that big of deal, but when your life sort of revolves around martial arts, the way mine has in the last few years, it is a hell of a blow to your emotions.

I know, I know…I’m lucky this is all I have to deal with. I know there are people who live their entire lives much worse off than me. I know I’m fortunate that the operations save me from dying of toxic poisoning from the infections. I know all of this…but it still sucks not being able to run again, not being able to perform a simple thing like a two legged jumping jack, or to use both legs to push with or to do anything physically ballistic with my right leg. All because of bad luck and a couple of doctors who decided they didn’t have time to properly diagnose my infection.

Some people might think it’s a small price to pay to be able to sit and write all day. I’m here to tell you, it’s not. In context, it’s a rather high price to pay, and one which I will keep on paying for until the day I die, which will, by the way, be the only time I won’t be in pain 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

But thank God I had the writing to save me. A lot of people don’t and they keep on the self destructive path which I found myself on within a year of becoming permanently handicapped, and they continue to drink, continue to abuse the pain meds, and they don’t have much in their lives to look forward to, no goals other than the next round of meds, the next drink, anything to help them live with the pain and the thought that they’re now less than they were before.

I was damned lucky in that I had the ability, the tools and the wherewithal to know where my salvation lay: in writing about what was hurting me inside. It was therapeutic, to say the least. When I finished the first book I’d been able to write in over two years, it felt like a weight had been lifted off of me. And I knew right then that I was going to live through this ordeal; that I was going to be a stronger person for it.

I won’t lie and say it hasn’t left me with some nasty scars, both physically and mentally. Ask my wife: she’ll be the first one to tell you that I’m not the man I was before this happened. But who can go through something like this and not have it change them? I guess I don’t want to meet the person who can do so. To me, it means they aren’t really all that connected with themselves or their world if they could shrug off such a life altering event as what I’ve been through because of a split second of being whole and then not being whole anymore. It changes a person. I’ve tried to not let it drag me down, and when it does, I try not to let it drag me down for too long and too far.

But let’s not dwell on the negative. I’m more than ready to look at the positive aspects of what my life is now. I still have the love of my wife, other than my leg, I’m healthy as a horse, and I’m still able to do my martial arts, even if not at the same intensity as I once enjoyed. And, more importantly, I lived to write another day.

With another Christmas around the corner, I find myself counting the blessings I do have. I think in today’s world, with all the terrible realities we’re forced to cope with on a daily basis, it’s important not to sell short those good things we enjoy. The simple things. The good things. So here’s to hoping the next year proves to be even better than the last one. Here’s to living life and enjoying it without living in the shadows and letting the badness inherent in this world drag you down into a miasma of depression and loathing.

And, finally, here’s to hoping that your holidays will be merry and bright and full of love and good cheer. Be safe. Be kind. And above all, be generous to others during this time of the year. It only takes a moment to hold a door open for someone or to say “thank you” and “please”. It will help smooth the rough waters that a lot of people experience at this time of the year.

Merry Christmas from The Black Glove Magazine staff, folks.

And just to start off the countdown the right way, here's a little Charlie Brown Christmas. I know if was a tradition in our family to watch this every year.

--Nickolas Cook
The Black Glove Magazine