This week I’m readying Husk, by D.P. Prior, in which a
bounty hunter “Maresman” arrives in the Old West alien town of Portis on the trail of an outlaw “husk”, or demon, who is apparently responsible for the deaths of at least five people. Hilarity does not ensue.
So this week I’m about halfway through Hallowed Ground, and at this point authors Steven Savile and David Niall Wilson have sufficiently muddied the waters that I’m not entirely sure who the bad guys are. Is it The Deacon and his band of revival/freak show misfits? Is it the mysterious traveling snake oil purveyor Balthazar? Is it both? Hmm, I bet it’s both. Oh, and there seem to be people around who can turn into crows.
So this week I reached into my big folder full of rejections (and the occasional acceptance) and pulled out something new: A contract! Arriving as it did in November of 1997, this was, if I remember correctly, my first-ever contract, for a story called “The Short Route” (AKA “My Cousin Susan’s Favorite Story Of Mine Ever”), in which a tenderfoot from Back East discovers that there’s more than just cattle on his first cattle drive. The story appeared in “Vampire Dan’s Story Emporium” a tiny regional magazine published in Syracuse that ran from 1997 to 2001.
“The Short Route” is one of the first stories I ever had published; it appeared in Vampire Dan’s Story Emporium in Spring of 1998. Of all my short stories, this is still the one that inspires the largest number of “this should be a movie” comments.
It was the third night out from the ranch, and Charlie still couldn’t get over the stars. There were so many up there, he’d have sworn he saw every star there could possibly be. He tried to count them every night, but never got very far before he couldn’t remember if he had counted that particular one or this particular one; and tonight was no different.
Charlie gave up counting and concentrated on relieving himself and then headed back to camp, still staring into the sky. As he got closer to the fire, the stars began to fade, until all he could see were the brightest ones, just like back in the city.
Chase’s sharp voice interrupted Charlie’s mooning. “Watch your feet, New York!” He looked down and saw he was about to put his foot into a frying pan full of grease. As he stepped over it, Chase—it wasn’t his real name, but he liked you to call him that and got ornery if you didn’t—added, with real concern in his voice: “Don’t go slipping and breaking your neck, New York. Gonna need every man we got tomorrow.”
Charlie sat on the ground next to Chase and picked up a tin cup. The old guy grunted and filled it with evil-looking black stuff that glistened in the firelight. Charlie took a sip, made a face. Tasted like Chase had started with a barrel full of coffee and boiled it down to this. Chase saw his expression and chuckled. “Too strong for your New York tongue, tenderfoot?”
Charlie knew better than to let Chase think anything of the sort. “Not strong enough,” he said. Then: “Is something gonna happen tomorrow?”
“Not if we’re lucky,” Chase said.