Why is all this Hope Vanishing?

It’s actually quite appropriate that Vanishing Hope is being released during FanExpo.

I guess I should explain something about FanExpo. I’ve been using this term because it’s probably a little more well known that the Festival of Fear. But it’s really Rue Morgue magazine’s Festival of Fear that attracted me. If you haven’t read Rue Morgue magazine, you just ain’t down with horror. So, I’m going to use Festival of Fear (or FoF) going forward. FanExpo/FoF…same thing.

So, back to the blog…what was I saying? Oh yeah, it’s actually quite appropriate that Vanishing Hope is being released during FoF. Why is that? Because I got the offer to be published at FoF about three years ago.

Monica had been editing No Hope off and on for a couple of years. I’d been volunteering at the Festival of Fear since 2005. Monica also works at Rue Morgue magazine, the major sponsor of the FoF. See how it all nicely connects?

Anyway, around 2008, Monica approached me with a proposition. She told me that Burning Effigy was looking into publishing longer works…novels. And she wanted to publish mine. It was very surreal, sitting in the scabby Food Court area of FanExpo being offered something I was really beginning to believe would never happen.

And I was so flummoxed (gotta love that word, huh?) that when it was over, my daughter, who had been sitting with us as we talked, turned to me and said, “Did I hear that right? She’s gonna publish your book?” I did a slow nod and felt the grin spread across my face.

But of course, in the best story tradition, there’s always hurdles to overcome and suspense to…uh…be experienced.

So, remember, this was August 2008. General Motors imploded June 2009 and took the North American economy with it. It especially affected smaller businesses, of which, of course, Burning Effigy was one. So, the book was pushed off for at least a year.

Then it was pushed off a little longer. I want to be clear, Monica was absolutely amazing through the entire thing. Completely honest, completely upfront and as frustrated as I was.

Then, around mid-2009, we had another conversation and she suggested a second option. Would I be interested in writing something a little shorter that would introduce readers to not only my writing, but also to the world of the Book.

Sure I can, I said. Had no freaking clue what I would write, but hell yeah, I could do that.

Then, over the next couple of months, I totally blanked. I’d spent so much time building that world, delving into the lives of the characters of No Hope, I just couldn’t come up with anything that might serve as an introduction. I was clear on what I wanted to accomplish, I wanted the story to happen chronologically prior to the events of No Hope. But how could I do that, incorporate the Book when none of the NH characters had seen or heard of it previously?

So yeah, I blanked.

Then, about two months in, when I was starting to freak a bit, I was organizing my files so I could actually find stuff easier on the computer (because this is the shit I do when I can’t come up with something to write…I do stuff with my past writing to fool myself into thinking I’m actually doing something that actually has to do with writing) when I found a story I’d written a few years earlier.

A story of a very young girl with a horrible power. It’s a short piece that involved the mother frantically searching for her lost child, while the lost child found a new playmate in a squirrel while sitting under a tree.

All I’ll say is, it doesn’t end well for the squirrel.

I re-read that story, and my mind got into that place that I love…the “what if?” place where the stories actually come from. And then the what if’s started. What if the girl got her power from the Book. Could I make that work? I thought I could.

But it was way too short. Less than 1400 words, about 6 pages. I needed to bulk it up to at least 20K words…80ish pages minimum.

So, this was a start, But I really had to do some more world-building here. So a story that really only had two characters started to build. And that little girl? Well, she ended up with some anger issues.

I built up what I thought was a decent story. I worked up a decent outline. There was a minor glitch, but I figured it would work itself out.

Then, in November, I began the story. I actually made remarkable progress, considering it was me, possibly one of the slowest writers in the world. I pounded that baby out over November and the Christmas break. I had a deadline of end of January. I was gonna make it.

And then I stalled out. Issues at work. Issues at home. Sucked the creativity right out of me. I tried, but I didn’t finish it. That minor glitch? The one that was supposed to work itself out? Yeah, well, it was the ending. I didn’t know how to end it.

In fact, I couldn’t even see how I was even close to getting from here to there. I stalled completely.

I talked to Monica again. I wasn’t gonna make the deadline. That was okay, apparently she had some bad mojo shit happening too. So, hey, things sucked all around.

But could I maybe have it done for May? Yeah, I could do that.

I now hadn’t looked at the story for a couple of months. Which turned out to actually be a good thing. I read what I had and—surprise, surprise—actually liked what I’d written. Even better? The ending presented itself to me like a long lost friend. I knew exactly how it would finish up. I knew the changes (thankfully minor) I needed to make.

And I was able to pound the whole thing out in a couple of weeks. Then I sent it off to Monica and she began doing her magic.

And so, three years after that first “I’d like to publish you” conversation…three years almost to the day, here I am, back at FoF. And in 90 minutes (as I write this), I’ll be sitting down at the Burning Effigy booth. And my own book will be on display and up for sale.

It’s been a long three years, but man, it was worth every second.

Oh yeah, in case you’re wondering, that damn squirrel still didn’t make it.

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3 thoughts on “Why is all this Hope Vanishing?

  1. Pingback: What IS a chapbook? « Cheryl Andrews

  2. Pingback: This is Tobin Elliott – Station Identification 2 « Left to Write

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