In the introduction to one of Haruki Murakami’s short story collections (it’s either After the Quake or Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman) he states he likes to approach his anthologies the way a musician puts together an album. I’m paraphrasing here because I’m away from my books and can’t look up his exact wording, but I distinctly remember that he pays careful attention to rhythm. He discerns between mellow pieces and “rockers” while also considering whether he wants the overall piece to be a concept album (i.e. the way that After the Quake is four or five very different stories all based around the same real-world event).
I like this method a ton and I tried to emulate it in some small way putting together my new collection Bone Meal Broth.
I’m no Murakami, and I don’t pretend to be, so when you pick up the book you won’t be bothered by any of this posturing and pontification. There’s just a copyright page, a short paragraph of acknowledgements and BAM! the stories begin. But hey, this is a blog so I think that self-indulgence is admissible.
If you don’t want to hear me babble about “my process” (you’ve got to imagine me holding my pinky finger out and sipping at a flute of champagne while I say that), stop reading now and just buy the book. It’s two bucks on amazon or you can rent it for free if you’re one of those one-percenters who’s got amazon Prime. If you’re not sure you want to invest the two bucks, you can also try a free sample that gives you the first complete story in the collection.
Returning to “my process”… pinkies out, everyone:
Originally, I was going to put together a collection where the stories were linked by a common subgenre: Southern Grotesque/Southern Gothic. Though many horror fans will contest that they’re not “pure horror”, I’m a big fan of the writers who’ve worked in this field (Cormac McCarthy, William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, etc.). My earliest short stories, the first ones I managed to sell, had been pastiches of these authors mixed with a more “straight-horror” sensibility.
I thought I had a pretty good thing going there, some semblance of a “voice” maybe. So I looked at the best two I had, the one’s that had sold to magazines and thus had been vetted to some extent, and decided I’d write two or three more to go along with them.
Wrote a new one, it took forever and wound up being longer than those earlier two combined, even after I’d cut it down. The problem was that it sucked. Maybe writing a bunch of "samey" stories wasn't a great idea after all.
I knew that I was going to go the self-publishing route with this, that I wanted the ebook to be a quick and dirty calling card, something that would be cheap enough that people might buy it on a lark and that it would possibly be a gateway to my other work (Tribesmen, still racking up the praise, buy it now so you don’t feel left out). I also didn’t want it to be hastily put together and have the opposite effect (“hey this guy sucks, I’ll be sure to stay away from his funny typo of a name”). I wasn’t going to put in stories that I didn’t feel 100% confident about.
Enter the voice at the back of my mind: remember when you were writing stories like crazy and some of them were pretty good? The good ones were all different kinds, there were even some dark scifi ones that you never let anyone see. What about all those stories that you’ve sold and the rights have reverted back to you? Ding!
Self-publishing is both exhilarating and terrifying. You’ve got the final cut, the last editorial say-so, and that can be a good or pure self-destruction.
Bone Meal Broth consists of the nine best stories I’ve got. It’s just under 20,000 words, which means that you’ll be able to read it in about an hour and a half. That’s short, some would say too short. I would disagree, but that’s like, your opinion, man.
I like these stories. Some were dusty, that’s to be expected when you look back at something you did any length of time ago. But I dusted them off, tinkered and rewrote large swaths where it was needed, then I set out to make the most professional production I possibly could.
Just because it was meant to be a low-risk investment for consumers, doesn’t mean that it had to look cheap. One of the biggest mistakes self publishers seem to make is shoddy editing and cover art, and I wanted to avoid that.
Arthur Wang (who did my blog’s beautiful banner all those eons ago) created one of the most drop-dead gorgeous covers I’ve ever seen, and I’m truly blessed to have it. Neal Hock provided astounding editing/proofreading, sometimes making insightful corrections and alterations to stories that had already appeared in professional magazines. Finally author Guido Henkel created perfectly formatted documents for me to upload to amazon.
If you consider all the expertise that went into this little slip of a book, it’s not even really “self publishing” anymore. It’s myself and three talented professionals working together to bring you nine stories that I feel I can stand by.
As with Tribesmen, if you take the time to share, tag, "like", or review Bone Meal Broth: you've got my eternal gratitude. Thank you!