Category Archives: Catalysts
That handsome cover belongs to a reprint anthology my story “The Umbrella People” is a part of. There are stories by others whose names make me giddy, like Ray Bradbury, Kealan Patrick Burke, Elizabeth Engstrom, Tim Lebbon, John R. Little, William F. Nolan, John Shirley, Tim Waggoner, and so many others that my head’s a-spinnin’! I’m very proud to be a part of this group of writers.
This will be the third printing of this short story. Its first publication was in the first issue of Dark Discoveries, which is what qualified it for this antho. Its second publication was in my short story collection Catalysts, which was actually published by James R. Beach and Dark Discoveries Publications. I decided that, in honor of this publication, which is due to be released from Dark Regions Press this Tuesday, that I would write a few words about the story.
“The Umbrella People” came to me around 2003. At the time, my parents took me, my then-wife, and my older daughter out to dinner every Saturday to a pizza place in a nearby town. It was a good little restaurant. Their pizza was great, and so was a lot of what they cooked, comfort food meals. It was raining and as we sat in our booth, my mother put her umbrella under the table.
“Don’t let me forget my umbrella, people,” she said.
“Where are they?” I asked.
“Where are what?”
“Your Umbrella People.”
She called me a smartass, we all chuckled, and went on with the meal. For some reason, though, the idea stuck with me. And, like most ideas, the longer it stuck, the darker it became. The world itself was growing darker. I was unhappy in my marriage. I was restless and confused. And the world was going crazy. We were about to go to war over lies that our own government was telling us and things seemed, at the ripe ol’ age of 24, bleak. A storm was coming, it seemed.
And so I began writing.
At the time, I worked at a bus station, behind the counter. An entire wall was made of a mirror above the counter if you stood in the waiting area. From my vantage point behind the counter, it was a window. I would bring my Olivetti manual typewriter to write, after January 2003, I brought my notebook computer, a Toshiba Satellite that lasted me until 2010. I wrote the story at the bus station.
It was during a fairly productive time in my life and I was doing a lot more writing than I have time for now. The story flowed out without many issues. I remember thinking how odd the tale was how strange. I was very proud of it.
Now, thirteen years or so later, I’m still very proud of the story. I know James Beach loves the story, and it was a major impetus for him allowing me to write a column for Dark Discoveries between 2004 and 2011, as well as taking a chance on my first collection of stories. Others who’ve read it also seem to really like it. I wrote a short film script based on it and intended to try to make the movie myself for a long time. These days, I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to make it happen.
I also think about the Umbrella People sometimes, and wonder what happened after the story. I think there may be a novella there, but it’s still unknown to me, foggy. Maybe someday, a character will speak to me and I’ll be able to find out what happens next, and then let you know. Until then, I’m happy the story has found a new, really cool home and I’m looking forward to you making this particular Discovery.
This Saturday marks my 5th wedding anniversary to Pamela, and I have to say that I’m a little surprised. Surprised that five years have passed, surprised that she’s been by my side for seven years, and surprised that I haven’t somehow fucked the whole thing up. There’ve been near-misses, but here we are with an awesome 19-month-old girl and still crazy in love.
Sunday marks the 11th anniversary of the e-mail that would change everything. I know it because it came the day after my best friend’s wedding to his wife. The e-mail was from Elizabeth E. Monteleone telling me that my short story, “The Growth of Alan Ashley,” had been accepted to Borderlands 5, the fifth volume of the cutting-edge horror/dark/weird fiction anthology that I’d only grown up reading. She and her husband, the writer Thomas F. Monteleone, co-edited the anthologies that had published some of the biggest names in the field, and several newcomers who would go on to become Elder Statespersons of the dark genres.
For me, the sale would be true recognition of hard work. Within 24 hours of the acceptance, their publishing company, Borderlands Press, released their first advertisement for the book. This ad listed all 25 contributors, including Stephen King. This was a dream come true.
“The Growth of Alan Ashley” appearing in Borderlands 5 (and its subsequent paperback from Warner Books, From the Borderlands) opened doors for me. Some I walked through, some I missed, some I still hope to walk through more than a decade later.
A lot has happened in the last 11 years. My life had been turned upside-down and rightside-up and everything in between. Still, I am hugely proud of my association with Borderlands and with my story. “The Growth of Alan Ashley” is a piece that I can look at and think that, at least once in my life, I wrote something that was as good as any other writer working at that time.
The story was reprinted (slightly edited) in my collection Catalysts. Since Catalysts sold out, it’s been out of print.
Borderlands 5 is now available as an ebook from Borderlands Press. Some of the reprint rights for some of the stories weren’t granted for this edition (for instance, no Stephen King) but it is still an amazing roster. I can’t go through my favorite stories entirely, because it’s been 11 years since I read the book, but I remember being blown away by Gary Braunbeck’s story “Rami Temporales”.
I hope to be able to get Catalysts republished in some form sooner than later, but for now, for a damn fine read, I can say that buying Borderlands 5 will be the best $3.99 you can spend. Honestly, I’d splurge and get all the Borderlands anthologies.
Last January, 2010, or maybe it was summer 2009, if I could find the printout…
Anyway, it doesn’t matter, I received a private message on MySpace (remember that place? Good times, man! Gooood times) from a new publisher that was getting into ebooks. They asked if I was interested in publishing the ebook version of my 2007 short story collection Catalysts.
Now, this flattered me. The fact that someone had read it, and then was interested in publishing it, is still something that flatters me. Luckily, I didn’t immediately reply. First, I have mixed feelings about Catalysts. The stories were written between 1998 and 2004, we’re talking from when I was 21 until 26. In other words, they’re stories written by someone just beginning to learn his craft. Beyond that, there’s at least one story that I really don’t like anymore. I know what I wanted to do with it, I know what I attempted to do with it, but ultimately I failed with it. (This strikes me as funny since it was one of the stories from the collection that was published on its own, and I’ve received emails saying it’s a favorite from a few deranged souls). I’m not saying the stories in Catalysts are bad. Far from it. I really love most of the 13 in that book. Two of which have inspired the novel I’ve spoken about so much. One gave me a goddamn career! And Tom Monteleone’s foreword still brings tears to my eyes and makes my head spin. But I think you know what I mean.
Second, I didn’t know who this publisher was. I’d never heard of it. So I looked it up. They were beginning with some ebooks from some writers that fans of the horror genre would recognize, but I noticed that these ebooks were smaller works, novellas, not anything big.
At the time I was (and still am) playing with the notion of doing one, two, or three stories in a small ebook and selling them for cheaper prices, in the way the Amazon will sometimes sell individual short stories from writers, or in the way that musicians will sell individual songs as well as the whole album. I thought (think) that if you put the two/three stories together with a central theme, maybe add a special introduction or afterword, that sort of thing, it could be an interesting way to get stories out there.
So after a week or so (I’m a busy guy), I sent a reply to the publisher that thanked him/her/it profusely, said how honored I was to be considered, but that I wasn’t interested in doing the whole collection as an ebook. And then, in a much shorter, more concise, and more businesslike format, I wrote what I just wrote above. I ended the email with something akin to, “Let me know your thoughts on these ideas. I look forward to hearing from you.”
I never heard back.
When I deleted my MySpace account last summer, there was the original message left unanswered. For the helluvit, I just Googled them. It appears they closed down. It appears that last fall or summer, they stopped replying to emails, Facebook messages, MySpace messages. Their MySpace remains with 6 friends, one being Tom.
It’s not cool, but I had a feeling about them.
A quick note: I’ll probably be shopping Catalysts around to epublishers later this spring or summer, once my day job and classwork are done. I’ll let you know how that goes.