In our lives there are always going to be places, people, things, and events that mean more to us than to anyone else. Sure, people will appreciate these things but they will not mean as much as they do to us.
One of those things for me is BACK FROM NOTHING, my book of short stories that was published ten years ago this year. I am celebrating the release of the book with friends tonight and wanted to take a minute to reminisce about the book and the path it’s lead me on.
To do this justice I have to go back fifteen years, when I was working on a fanzine turned briefly legit with friends. The ‘zine was called Ghoulash and was a dream come true for all of us involved. During that time I was writing a lot and wrote the short story that would form the corner stone that became my novel. It was also the era when I was writing a lot of the work that appeared in the book. For some insane reason I got it into my head to try to publish my stories. I mean, hell, good on me, but what was I thinking?
Well, I was thinking ‘why not’. I had been writing seriously since I was eighteen and in ’94 I was twenty and full of gumption. Oh, gumption, how I miss it. So I took some stories, I cleaned them up, dusted them off, and I sent them on their way. I went about it a little backward in that I tried to get the book first, oops, and lo and behold there were no takers. Writers talk all the time about the plight of rejection and let me tell you, it never gets easy and it never gets funny. So I got a lot of rejection. Letter after letter after letter. Until one day I got a response from a company called University Editions, who were interested in my book. I couldn’t have been happier. The thing was though that UE was a subsidized book publisher, which meant that I paid the fees and cost of doing the book and they produced, promoted, and distributed it. The cost was pretty steep, with two levels and both being pricey, but I was at a dead end, and saw no other route. Years later I can stop and see where I should have just been patient and kept writing and looking for places to submit but, well, I did what I did.
And I don’t regret it at all.
With the help, a LOT of help, from my folks we went into the process of getting the book published through UE. It was a loooong process. It was a matter of – send in book, wait for it to be typed and set, find errors, fix them, re-submit, get it back, go through it and then there was coming up with the loot. It was a good couple of years of stops and starts before it finally came together, and I remember walking around with my draft as I went through it day by day to fix errors.
The book was released finally in 1999 and my first signing was at Borders books in Flint, Michigan on June 14 (god, how did I forget the date, I totally had it a month ago, damn!). The signing was ridiculous but fun. I got drilled by a religious couple that happened to thumb to a place in my book where I had portrayed Lucifer, and then I got asked lots of WHERE IS… questions, as if I worked there. After the signing I had a dinner at a local restaurant and celebrated with friends.
After the signing I sorta waited. I didn’t know what to do and was deathly afraid of reviews, so I waited to see what happened. Fool that I was, I didn’t really go out and promote the book. Within a year of publication I got a letter from UE stating that they were going out of business and that if I wanted my books I needed to pay shipping or just wave goodbye to them. More money spent and now I had to distribute, sell, promote, and do everything else for the book.
It is empowering to do everything yourself but it’s also exhausting because after you write all the indie booksellers, and try to get it reviewed, and try to get people to buy it, what then? Well, you keep doing it. You do conventions, and art shows, and any other damned thing you can do to get the word out there. You talk it up, and you sell it. For me, it’s never been easy to do all that because I try to be modest in what I am doing, and it’s hard to ‘sell’ it. But I try.
In ten years I have given away far more books than I have sold, far more, but the book is out there, and people have liked it. I am sure people have hated it just as much, but screw them, what do those people know? HAHA. Since BFN came out I have been published four times – three times in a periodical and once in a magazine and was twice awarded honorary mention in a respected book. I have put together near to ten chapbooks of new material. I wrote a novel. I have put together enough stories for a few more collections. And I still write and do other stuff. And I am still looking to get more books out there.
It has been a crazy ten years, and despite all the setbacks and disappointments I am still here. Still writing. Still working.
And that says more than I can with any amount of words or time.