Well, today is the day. The Shadow Box is available for public consumption now. I’m never really sure what to do for launch day posts, everyone does them a bit differently. I’m going to talk about the book broadly, and then my own contributions to it (I’m sure Chris will have a similar post up) and some plans for the future.
The Shadow Box was a real labor of love for both of us. Chris and I last collaborated on That Weird City (which we have dropped the price on for a combo deal kind of thing, if you haven’t read it) back in 2011-2012. We both knew each other from some writing and gaming communities prior to that, and we’d seen publication in the same magazine a couple of times, so we decided to throw together an anthology of weird horror stories that we’d had kicking around. It was very much a new author book with all that entails. Some formatting errors, some typos that slipped through, one story where the initial upload was a draft instead of the finished copy in the rush to get it up and ready for the self-imposed deadline. We actually just uploaded a kind of remastered version of the collection this weekend to coincide with the new launch, utilizing a lot of things learned over the years.
We have both learned a lot since City came out. We’ve both made a huge effort to expand the scope of our reading. City was very much a couple of New England dudes who grew up reading too much Lovecraft and associated mythos authors. Going back over it for the recent edits, I’m honestly kind of shocked at how little I cringe away from the narratives but also at how many new ways I would have expanded those stories if I’d written them today. My voodoo-tech support would be way, way more enmeshed with contemporary New Orleans Voodoo and all the social and cultural depth that entails, instead of being a convenient magical system for my white protagonist to use while fighting off evil spirits. I also would have leaned way, way less on the cosmic evil antagonists that popped up in many of the tales. I’m also very aware that five years from now I might look at that story and figure out a way I would have written it differently. Writing is never being satisfied with what you put out and knowing you can do better, but still making your best available while pursuing the higher goal.
Hindsight is 20/20. I walked away from the revision thinking that I played it really safe, and it was okay, but I want to do better than “okay” in my writing.
The Shadow Box is an attempt to push ourselves outside of the comfort zone. We may dip into the mythos for some trappings, but we’ve decided to twist them into new shapes and new directions. Chris’s work is tackling themes of masculine insecurity and testosterone poisoning, or art criticism and the idea of the creative zeitgeist as a force outside of our world entirely, or looking into the future-that-wasn’t of cyberpunk and marrying our current corporate dystopia with the trappings of the 80s. I’m shoving myself out of my own culture and upbringing to look at other things; I’ve got stories more approaching fantasy and dark fairy tale than the new weird, I’m trying to incorporate settings that don’t get a lot of attention otherwise, and I’m trying to be hyperaware of the ways that stories can be misconstrued if you aren’t careful with them. I have some stories on immigration and refugees that I went back over three, four, five times to make sure they were written right, because when you’re blending real world issues with the fantastic there’s so many ways to do it wrong.
I think it came out okay. I hope it came out okay. We’ve sent these out to beta readers of all genders, creeds and colors and we haven’t had anyone come back with “you insensitive assholes” yet. We gave ourselves a much more flexible deadline this time around and I think it paid off. There were many cases of finishing a draft and basically just taking a core element and a few characters to rewrite them from scratch. There was one where I had to stop it a few pages in and then work on another while reading several hundred pages out of a historical textbook to make sure I was getting a bunch of details right when they weren’t on Wikipedia.
Now it’s out there and if you decide to pick it up, I hope you enjoy it. If you do, or even if you don’t, the reviews help. Even a couple of lines on Amazon bump it up in the search and sorting algorithms. If you like it, maybe recommend it to some friends. Lend it to them on kindle – I mean, the spiced rum money is nice but the point of writing is to get it into a lot of hands – and throw a “hey this isn’t awful” post up on FB if you are so inclined. It’s incredibly helpful and appreciated and allows us to keep doing this kind of stuff.
Speaking of. I have no doubt that we’re going to put another anthology out sometime in the next couple of years, but with this having gotten us back on the writing horse we’re both working on our respective novels/series. Chris has some crazy-cool stuff brewing, I’m hammering out what started as a bit of a murder mystery and is now growing in scope with every history book I read and take notes on. Hell, when I finished a few of these short stories going “I want to make a novel out of these characters or this setting,” and I’ll probably take a stab at that as well. Doubly so if there are reviews from people saying they liked reading them in particular. Hint hint.
Okay, I’ll stop now.
Off to read a treatise on turn of the century Cairo.