So this week I finally got around to reading Lost Souls, the classic 1992 vampire novel by Poppy Z. Brite:
It’s been quite a while since I reached into my giant pile of rejection (and some acceptance) letters, so this week I spun up random.org to have it tell me which folder I should reach into. It selected folder I-J, from which I pulled an old contract from Hard Shell Word Factory (now an imprint of Mundania Press, home of some oddly specific genre categorizations), for the eBook rights to Night Watchman. “Hard Shell Word Factory” doesn’t belong in the I-J folder, of course, but, you know, sometimes things get misfiled. But anyway, I picked it, so here it is. Rather than reproducing all umpteen pages of the eBook contract, I thought I would just pull a few selected sections from it, which may serve as an interesting illumination of how the eBook world has changed since the year 2000 (or, as we called it back in those panic-stricken days, “Y2K”).
Well, for the one or two readers (both of whom are most likely in the UK) who are still waiting for the follow-up to Dragon Stones (which was once upon a time the #1 best seller on the Kindle fantasy lists in the UK), it is finally finished! The new book, Shards, is part one of a two-part fantasy series, and clocks in at about 111,000 words. For those who are keeping track, that’s somewhat shorter than A Flock of Crows is Called a Murder or Dragon Stones, but longer than Night Watchman or Long Before Dawn. Why release it as two books instead of one? Well …
I haven’t done a Random Rejection in a while, so I reached into my giant accordion file and pulled out a letter. This one is from the Seymour Agency in upstate New York (not far, in fact, from where I went to college). Their opinion is that the manuscript I sent, A Flock of Crows is Called a Murder, needs work; fortunately, they’re here to help.
So it seemed as if things were progressing nicely with Eclipse Comics … I was writing “Night Watchman” stories, my artist was drawing panels, and my editor was getting married and moving away. Good times for all concerned! Sadly, good times never seem to last …
So after getting those encouraging letters from the editor at Eclipse, I had to actually produce the scripts. Fortunately that wasn’t a problem; I was pretty prolific back in the day. However, formatting was an issue. From reading reference books (in 1993, you couldn’t just hop on the Internet to find examples of comic book script layouts), I was aware that when submitting comic book scripts as a writer, you have to format them similarly to a movie script, with the action divided into panels. You have to supply POVs, camera angles, etc., and each line of dialogue is numbered; this is all so the artist will know how to arrange everything on the page.
As you can see from the Eclipse editor’s copious notes, in this early Night Watchman draft, I wasn’t very good at any of that yet.
So this week I pulled something really juicy out of my pile of rejections. I may have mentioned before that a number of my books, including Night Watchman and Dragon Stones, started out as comic book series proposals. I was working with an editor at the now-defunct Eclipse Comics on developing several of these. Unfortunately I’m not a particularly good artist, so I was submitting them as scripts that would be illustrated by others. How did it all work out in the end? Well, let’s just say I’ve lived in the San Diego area for eight years now and have yet to attend a Comic-Con.