You Might Just Make It Out of This Alive: Thoughts on Building a Short Story Colllection

Though I am an editor because I am committed to using the skills I have to survive and help others thrive too, I am first and foremost an author. It’s kind of hard to pin down who I am as an author sometimes because I tend to believe that first and foremost I must serve the story over myself. So, piece by piece, I do my best to embrace curiosity in its most extreme forms. I’ve therefore surveyed a lot of territory beyond what I identify as my Bizarro fiction brand. I go from Cosmic Horror, to Urban Fantasy to Bizarro and to other places entirely. Which is why I’m really excited to be putting out a collection. Choosing the pieces and the order, I was reminded of discussions with my bandmate as to what we were putting on our album, arguments on the aesthetics and tone of it and the way the tracks were laid down. My editor, Jeff Burk and publisher, Rose O’ Keefe gave me a lot of freedom on this one.

First of all, they let me decide how I presented the stories to you. This was a daunting task but an enjoyable one. I remembered thinking about The Beatles album Let It Be. Let It Be had always been a puzzle to me. I knew a lot of the trouble was the meddling in the studio and Phil Spector not quite getting what was going in John, Paul and George’s heads. When I listen to this album, I didn’t hear a single track I didn’t like. The pieces listeners would be likely to point fingers at, i really like and would have been welcome on a different album. One After 909 is a fun throwback to their early days, I Dig a Pony has a quiet intensity to it. Though I’m not crazy about The Long and Winding Road, it would be a different matter on an album that didn’t already have the emotional 1-2 of Across the Universe and Let it Be. Good tracks do not necessarily make a good album. So, I looked instead to The White Album and Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, albums that embrace diversity but still have a unified effect. I of course went for the things that had been picked up by markets I liked but some of my favorite things I’ve written still got the shaft.It took me awhile to figure out the order I wanted to show these things in but when I established that rhythm, I was happy with it.

Another great bit of freedom that I got was input on the title and cover design. Eraserhead is awesome to work in this way. While sometimes wary of my missteps in the decision-making process, Rose and Jeff were always listening and put a lot of trust into their authors. I’ve spoken before about the usefulness of the small press support system and Rose and Jeff showed me exactly why this is an organization I believe in and take pleasure in working with.  The title was pulling teeth. I gave Jeff and Rose a bunch of phrases that were too decadent, too subcultured and oftentimes, just too silly. Ideas ranged from But She Was Made of Leeches to Shadowpuppet Autopsy to a bunch of different stuff about razors. I was at one point told that I was not looking to title a Rob Zombie album. Eventually, I picked up on a phrase I use jokingly a lot and one that appears in my work sometimes. It clicked. And when I had that phrase, I had an idea for the cover aesthetic. I talked to Jim Agpalza, a very talented artist I know and I told him I had a really cool idea. He said it sounded like something that would be fun to draw. Rose and Jeff agreed. Rose and Jeff took Jim’s image and created the book design. What did it come out like?

You Might Just Make it cover

Pretty damn great.

They took my years of work and struggle and hurt and they helped turn them into something beautiful.

My collection You Might Just Make It Out of This Alive is available now on Amazon.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s