Spinetingler: So you smoked a bowl of ice, got higher than a hipster in Colorado, and SOLD all the rights to your characters and storyline from DREAMING DEEP to Uncanny Books?
Anonymous-9: It wasn’t like that. I was stone-cold sober. Honest.
Let me get this straight. You wrote a short story called DREAMING DEEP a couple years ago for Horror Factory.
Right. They called it a Crime Factory Special Edition and dedicated it to Tom Piccirilli.
The story was a 2,100-word updated tribute to horror master H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu mythos?
Right. A ship captain appears to lose his sanity after his teenaged son disappears off a dock in Long Beach, California.
And then you did a little recycling and self-published the story again in a collection of three shorts called JUST SO YOU KNOW I’M NOT DEAD.
Correct. I gave it away for free on Amazon. Twice. Over 600 people downloaded it which is not bad for a little short story collection.
And then you woke up one morning, smoked some crack—
No, I woke up to find I had fifty dollars toward my rent for the month and I was going to have to raid my savings again. Not because I can’t get work, but because I turn work down to write. And I said, “I need one of my stories to take care of me for a little bit here. What can I do right now to make some money?” I remembered working with Andrew Byers in 2012 when he reviewed HARD BITE for Hellnotes and he’d said he was going to set up a publishing company and he actually had a budget. I got online and sure enough he’d founded Uncanny Books and was looking for fantasy, horror, etc etc. So I looked through my stuff for something that might fit the imprint. But how could I induce him to part with cash, because small presses mostly go on a generous royalty split and it’s great but it takes a while to pay off. I didn’t just want money now, I wanted it in advance! So I had to think up something different. I came up with something so new, Andrew said it was actually old, like they used to do in the 40s.
Opium was what they smoked in those days.
I would love to try some but no, what I actually did is look at these DREAMING DEEP characters that had so much potential—the tugboat crew and this poor captain that everyone thinks has gone off the deep end and he’s rotting up in Atascadero, an asylum for the criminally insane—and I knew that much as I loved the characters and the story, I’d never write them into a novel. Too many other stories are crowding my head and competing for writing time. So I said to myself, “What if I offer everything to Andrew? What if I offer to expand DREAMING DEEP into a 15,000-word novelette that can be used as the launch for a series? And what if Andrew could bring in his own writers and get them to expand and further the adventures of this tragic action-hero Captain Ed Angelus?
You thought all this up with fifty dollars in the bank toward your rent?
The thought of living on the street focused my mind considerably. I emailed Andrew, asked him if he was interested in a pitch, and we set a time to talk on the phone. I made sure he had a copy of the story and I noticed that a few copies sold on Amazon (“Free” was over and the price was back up to 99cents) so I suppose he’d had a few trusted friends look the piece over as well. I practiced my pitch on how I thought the story could be expanded and how it could launch a series and he said “yes.”
So he offered you fifty bucks and some roofies—
No, I asked for a four-figure amount with half in advance before writing got started.
And like most publishers he pitched the phone across the room and cursed like Joan Rivers with a snootful of bath salts—
No! We agreed on a figure and Andrew went away and drew up a contract and we went back and forth on a few terms but it was quite smooth. We did it all electronically by each printing out the contract, signing, scanning and sending the digital files back and forth until we made a pdf of the contract with both our signatures on it and that was that. I asked him to mail a check cause I didn’t want to lose any money on PayPal fees and he did.
Why are you telling me this? Most story deals are so secretive…
Exactly! In my opinion the more writers talk about deals and share information the more empowered we are. When you have a bit of a name and a platform, it’s time to apply some creativity and initiative to bringing in moola. Rules? There are no rules. Just like a story, dream it up and see if it flies.
I understand you have a one-year deadline.
Yes, but I hope to deliver it as soon as possible. I want the rest of my money!