A few months ago, I suppose I could look back and tell you the exact date, but really that’s just an exercise in exactness and I’m anything but organized or precise, I received one of the most flattering emails that a writer could receive, and remember, while I’ve written on an off for 20 odd years, I have yet to put myself out there in a way that markets me as a writer, except for the years of 2010-2011 (really 12 months). During that loose year I wrote several short stories, even got invited to participate in a few anthologies. It really should have been the rejuvenation of my languishing career as a writer. Then life got in the way, and distractions happened (some good distractions), and my writing has been limited. Stagnant and uninspired. Then I got an email.
An independent producer/filmographer of short films contacted me, and over the last couple years he’s held on to this virtual rumpled copy of Beat to a Pulp: Hardboiled, that in my mind I imaging tucked into his back pocket, dogeared and well read. He was reaching out because he liked the story “The Janitor” that appeared in that collection, which had lead him back to this vary website where he had read more of my stories.
First, I can’t say how gratifying that someone could or would put such weight on a story I wrote 4 years ago that they would reach out. It’s flattering, uplifting, and inspiring. I should write more, and I am working hard to do just that. So for that I am thankful. The ember was almost out, but now there’s a flame again. Thank you.
He was reaching out in a professional capacity. He wanted to adapt “The Janitor” and another story that had only been published on my website. Imagine the grin on my face.
We discussed his process, his previous movies, even the possibility of me assisting with writing the scripts. I really liked his direction for “The Janitor” which has a more action oriented end, something that was already one of the potential directions I had contemplated during the initial writings. So the prospect of seeing the story of crime scene cleaner Mike Banks in search of his missing employee Conny Parker became so much more tantalizing, inspiring. I may even get to writing the novel that the story was a character exercise pretext.
There are no guarantees and don’t expect me to be able to buy a round of drinks next time we meet, but I wanted to share because the license agreement contracts for the two stories arrived today at my office and I’m about throw down my John Hancock with that big grin. With luck, I’ll be able keep you supporting friends apprised of production status and possibly one day add my name to Internet Movie Database.
It would take me some time, effort, to write something as confoundedly interesting as some of the verbose ramblings of Rust Cohle from True Detective, but there are moments when I see my life like that crushed can of beer. Time is not only circular, but flat, that all the moments of our existence are already present, just not experienced and as we attempt to experience all that we are, undoubtedly we are bound to stomp over some of our past and relive those singular moments. Tangentially speaking it feels like I’ve been here before, only younger, and not the least bit wiser.
Back in 94-95, freshly returned from my moment of freedom in Colorado, now with a new wife and a new child I aspired not to be an office worker, a cog, but an independent businessman. I knew nothing of business, and well the short duration of Enigma Comics is a testament to that. Yes, for a short gleaming moment I was a comic book publisher. Clearly low rent, but I managed to get a rag tag bunch together and we produced a few stories and xeroxed comics. Low rent.
At that time I was teaming with story ideas. It was where my first ideas for the blue gelatinous duo Klik Boom, which would come colorfully to life eight years later in the pages of Digital Webbing Presents, came into frame. It all derived from a drawing I co-opted from one of the creators in my comic group, Jason Arthur. Jason started the drawing and for whatever reason ditched. I finished the initial figure and added three black oily characters (two who would turn blue and gelatinous a couple years later). I may have aspired to be a comic artist, but as evidence shows I was long ways from claiming it as fact. It’s a realization though, a fruition of an idea that grows with each viewing.
From this drawing grew Dewey Thompson, a rockabilly monster hunter with a well quaffed pompadour and an affinity for Elvis Presley. Over the years, Dewey existed in the occasional sketch, a half ass attempt to create a webcomic, and strings of notes for short stories and longer.
So roll down the road twenty years. I’m playing the publishing game again with One Eye Press, my business acuity has maybe doubled but I’m learning, and I’m ready to let Dewey Thompson ride again. This time out Dewey is hunting real life monsters: criminals, hustlers and dealers.
I don’t know where this ride will take me, but hopefully away from all my previous missteps and redundant efforts. I’m geared to see this to the end, and I want to thank Bryon Quertermous of Exhibit A Books for helping me find a moment of focus.
It wasn’t that long ago, all things considering, that with my best huckster smile I tried to sell you on a little fiction web magazine featuring some of the rootinest tootinest western shorts east of the Pecos: The Big Adios. I had some mighty ambitions of that growing in popularity alongside Shotgun Honey and much like Costner’s Field of Dreams, if I built it you would come. Readers and writers alike. Unfortunately, the over all success was more akin The Postman as opposed to Dances with Wolves. I don’t know why I’m stuck on Costner, perhaps because the majority of his success had a western bent. Unlike Costner’s failures I’m not ready to dismiss the lack of success for The Big Adios on my own self-aggrandizing ego. No I think there’s a place in the world for The Big Adios, for tales of western leaning to thrive and survive.
In December I closed submissions for online western magazine, and today I sent out the last of the accepted and rejected notices. The site is scheduled with stories until the end of February, and then that is that. It’s a bittersweet moment knowing that there won’t be anymore stories to publish to the site.
I imagine your curious why I called it an end? The Big Adios made is going to make it a full 52 weeks and then some, so why end it now?
We have been extremely lucky with the submissions to the site, so much so that had our acceptance rate dropped even by 5 percent we wouldn’t have seen through to the end of 2013. This is just open honesty. We didn’t let submissions slide to fill a slot, but we managed a few times to get a good story just in time. So it got me thinking, why are we always chasing submissions? There aren’t that many western publications, at least not compared to crime and horror?
There are slew of possibilities towards a lack of interest from both writers and readers, and the one most probable reason was format. While we did update the site this fall and it is more mobile friendly, neither submissions or readership changed drastically in the three months leading up to my decision to cease the web magazine.
So the sun is setting on The Big Adios, but you know, the sun always rises.
In May 2014, in conjunction with One Eye Press, The Big Adios will begin release as a quarterly western magazine featuring 10 thrilling short stories inspired by the Wild West and will be available in both digital and print formats.
We are accepting submissions now through April 14th to fill slots for issues 1 and 2. Jump over the OEP submissions page today.
I want to thank all the contributors who submitted, our readers who came back every week for a new story, and to our editorial team: Ryan Sayles, Chis Leek and Aldo Calcagno. Call it success or failure, it wouldn’t have happened without you.
Be sure to get your copy of The Big Adios this May!
Zelmer Pulp is a handful of writers from around the globe who by fate or consequence have gravitated together to produce a series of genre collections. Their first two collections C’mon and Do the Apocalypse, a send off of the zombie horror genre, and Hey, That Robot Ate My Baby, a dastardly take on sci-fi, were some of my favorite reading earlier this year. And if I have to be honest I have known the Zelmer Pulp crew individually as writers and artists for some time now. I’ve had the pleasure to publish Brian Panowich, Chris Leek, Ryan Sayles, Isaac Kirkman, and Chuck Regan through the Shotgun Honey flashzine. I knew they were talented and crazy, and so I guess like minds attract.
When I heard they were going to tackle the Western next, with their special point of view, I dropped some not so subtle hints I’d like to participate. They were kind enough to oblige, though I imagine they might be kicking themselves for that choice from time to time. The long and the long of it, I managed to contribute my short story called “The Last Shot.”
The collection is labeled weird west, but “The Last Shot” is traditional and a counterbalance to the talent you will find in Five Broken Winchesters. The following is the first part of my story.
The Last Shot
“Marshal? Do you think I’ll hang?”
Hank Markum said nothing at first, taking a sip from his coffee before considering the grave question of his prisoner. He looked across the fire, the flickering light played against the boy’s youthful appearance making him seem younger than his nineteen years. The tremble in Caleb Monroe’s voice only impressed upon the marshal that this was no grown man he was taking to the gallows.
“Son, they already strung up that boy, Oren Canter, and it doesn’t look likely that that judge up in Cheyenne is going to side any different with you,” he replied before taking another sip of his harsh brew. “You and the other killed that man, and took his horses, or perhaps the other ways around. Not that it matters much.”
“I know that man died. I know, but…” the boy began to bluster before falling into silence.
Markum saw the sheen of tears well up along the boy’s eyelids, cresting, capturing the dance of the firelight.
This was the first bit of concern the marshal had seen from the boy since taking him into custody down in Greely two day ago. Any attempt to speak of his crimes or what was to come in Cheyenne was met with silence, sometimes distraction. The boy wasn’t obliged to talk, but Markum was grateful for any conversation on the trail. Most of which leaned toward the boy’s pa, who Markum figured would have been about his own age had he not died when Caleb was eleven, leaving him orphaned, and eventually in the company of Oren Canter.
“Silence isn’t a defense, Caleb,” Markum pressed feeling the boy was ready. “It is not likely to be any help in Cheyenne, but maybe talking will ease your conscience, ease the load, before…before we get there.”
The boy swiped his hand across his eyes, “I didn’t know about Oren.”
The two boys, Caleb had told Markum, had been inseparable since he had found his way to Cheyenne after bouncing from one well-meaning home to another. Canter’s father drove the stage coach, giving the boys more freedom than ought to be had by two so rambunctious. The stories he told of the two reminded the marshal of the carelessness of friendship, and now the hollowness of the boy’s face reminded him of the loss.
“Oren didn’t deserve that, not for that old rancher. They was stubborn, the both of them—the old man for putting up the fight, and Oren for insisting we steal his useless swayback nag from the stable.” The boy balled up his fists and shook his head in frustration.
“Them tugging back and forth spooked an old gray in the next stall. It gave a kick and both got knocked sideways into the mud. Only the rancher didn’t jump back up like Oren. He just moaned, clutching his chest till he didn’t moan no more.”
“Why didn’t you get help,” Markum questioned.
“I wanted to,” Caleb demanded. “Least I might have thought about it if I weren’t scared and Oren weren’t insistent on that horse, and the other two.”
“It were just an accident. An accident,” he pleaded.
“Accident or not, whatever defense you boys had for the rancher’s death was void when you stole those horses.”
Caleb stared across the fire at the marshal, “I didn’t want to steal them.”
“But you did, and they still hang horse thieves.”
The boy’s expression crumpled, and without a word turned away from Markum to lie on the cold unforgiving earth, knowing that was all the comfort he’d enjoy in this life.
A few months ago, I had the great thrill to be offered to blurb a novella from Snubnose Press and I responded enthusiastically to the request. But in true fashion I put off reading the book and things entered and exited my limited consciousness. Shiny baubles. And before I knew it, 2 months had passed and I hadn’t read or blurbed or anything. I’m a horrible person.
So I touched base with Snubnose Press to see if they still needed the blurb. Sure did. I read the story over the weekend and intended to put together my blurb early the next week. That’s when Murphy and Darwin conspired against me and through some stupidly heroic deeds, which I’ve sworn under oath to the Government not to disclose, I broke my right hand, and for those playing along it’s also my write hand. It has some other nicknames, but we don’t need to go into that.
Last Friday, A WIND OF KNIVES by Ed Kurtz was unleashed upon the word sans a blurb from me. A lifetime dedication to procrastination has served me well and bemused many a fellow dependent on my magnanimous promises.
Ed and Brian (and crew) at Snubnose Press, my sincere apologies.
I think I’ve castigated myself sufficiently, let us get on with my opinions.
Over the last couple of years I’ve had the pleasure to read stories by Ed Kurtz, from his novel Bleed to his his Sci-Fi / Horror series about the down on his luck detective Sam Truman to stories I’ve had the pleasure to publish myself through Shotgun Honey. One thing I’ve learned to expect from Kurtz is that I shouldn’t have any expectations at all. Each story is an amorphous experience where the rules are unbound. So when I was told he had written a Western, something I had never seen from the Texas native, it was not unexpected. Still, like with most of his work, it was full of its surprises.
A Wind of Knives starts off and hits three major tropes of the Western: Love, Revenge, and Duty.
We find our protagonist, Daniel Hays, staring up along the hills into a falling dusk, a scene that should be a captivating canvas of Texas landscape only to be drawn towards Daniel’s true focus. A hanging man, his ranch hand and his lover Steven. This sets in motion a story, with gender and sexuality set aside, that makes for a riveting tale of revenge, and with elevates the story above a standard Western.
Kurtz tells a story of a man who has loved and lost, not once, but twice in his lifetime. The first his wife Elizabeth who died from sickness and then again with Steven who died, as the story would unwind, from hate. It is from his understanding of Love, removed from the boundaries of gender, that Daniel searches out his lover’s killers despite being no where near suited for the job. His sense of duty would bring him to peril and near death, into the arms of unsuspecting tenderness and ultimately unmask the face of hate.
Knives is more than a Western, and from a writer who comfortably writes terrifying mechanization of Horror, Kurtz isn’t too far away from his wheelhouse with a story ignited by hate and extinguished with love.
Kudos to Ed Kurtz and Snubnose Press for publishing A Wind of Knives.