Back in 2011, I submitted my second completed novel, called Hell or High Water, to the Journalstone “$2000 in 2011” horror novel contest. It was pretty good, I thought. I’ve seen many books on shelves—fuck, I’ve PAID for many books—that weren’t as good. Sure, I’m biased, but just in terms of grammatical mechanics, some of the stuff that gets published is simply ugly.
Sure enough, Hell or High Water made the Top Ten in the contest. When I found out, of course I was stoked. I was in Afghanistan at the time. Good news is always welcome, but when you’re downrange eating dust every day, good news is a special kind of soul fuel (and seeing a bald, 40-year-old Warrant Officer with two left feet do the happy dance in full battle-rattle is surely a spectacle to behold—you missed out).
A couple of weeks later, I found out that I didn’t make the top three—the prizewinners. The top three won publication and a cash prize (considered an “advance against royalties”), but I was eighth place out of ten. An Also Ran. A strikeout. It was disappointing.
My first completed novel, Dolly, had been picked up around the same time by Bad Moon Books, which softened the blow (Roy and Liz, I’m on pins and needles waiting for Dolly this fall!). Also, after doing this a little while, I've come to consider a rejection (or a non-win, in this case) an exhortation to do better next time.
My (steadfast and strong or MULISH and HARDHEADED?) response to being the eighth-place McJoker was to shove Hell or High Water back through the Grand Abominable Rewrite Thresher. Cut the crappy parts out of it, let some of the good things expand, and hope for the best. Then I sent it out again, this time to Blood Bound Books.
It was accepted. Since then we’ve worked on it, performed significant editorial surgery on it, retitled it, and now (ta-da!) Loveless will be out in approximately one month. Thanks Marc and Joe, and thanks Dave! You guys are awesome! With the wise editing, the brilliant publisher's guidance, and the KICK ASS cover art, this one looks like a homerun.
In the meantime, my laptop has continued to be a busy place. I finished another novel, this one called Dark Crescent, and I submitted it to Journalstone as well. I’m pleased to announce that Dark Crescent is in this year’s Top Ten list of finalists. A finalist. Again.
I’m taking this as a good sign. I don’t know how many entries they had in either year, but these lists of finalists represent a great deal of potential. Among these folks could be the next horror rockstar. OF COURSE I WANT IT TO BE ME, but I’m in good company either way. If Dark Crescent isn't a homerun with Journalstone, I'll do what I always do, and take another swing.
Congratulations to all finalists, both at the Stokers and at Journalstone!