As I continue the long, long process of moving forward with my proposed book The Greatest Record Ever Made!, I'm still selling some fiction, too. On Thursday I received a message from AHOY Comics publisher Hart Seely, telling me AHOY wanted to buy my short story "The Last Ride Of The Copperhead Kid." Yes, that means I've written--and sold!--my first Western. Somewhere in the highest trails above, my Dad is smilin'.
Some of my friends were surprised that I'd written a Western to begin with. It surprised me, too. I think Fran Striker's The Lone Ranger Traps The Smugglers is the only Western novel I've ever read (though I have some Elmore Leonard and Mickey Spillane paperback Westerns stacked in my massive queue); I've seen a number of movie Westerns (High Noon and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance are my favorites in the genre), I loved TV Westerns The Big Valley and especially The Guns Of Will Sonnett, and I used to read a bunch of the Marvel Comics Westerns--The Rawhide Kid, Two-Gun Kid, and Kid Colt, Outlaw--as a kid, but none of this seems sufficient background for me to try my hand at being the next Louis L'Amour or Max Brand.
Nonetheless, I had an idea. "The Last Ride Of The Copperhead Kid" was one of four short stories I wrote in the space of, I think, two weeks or so early this year; I've written three more since then. "Copperhead" is the only Western, and one of the only two straight genre pieces (the fantasy story "Sword Of The Chosen One" is still in search of a home). The others were a mix of intense tearjerker ("Dreaming Deadly," rejected by AHOY), rock 'n' roll comedy ("Guitars Vs. Rayguns," my first fiction sale), and bubbly shots of quirk ("The Picture Of Amontillado," which sold, and "Montie Pylon Finds His Holy Grail" and "The Greatest Thud Never Heard," both of which await word on their fate). My batting average in short story sales so far this year is three sales out of five attempts, with two still pending. As I've said before, that beats the hell out of my zero for one thousand stat from 1973 through 2018.
Honestly, I almost didn't even send the Copperhead Kid or "Sword Of The Chosen One" stories to AHOY. I figured they were too...straight, for lack of a better description, too genre-specific, too earnest, and not humorous, at least not intentionally humorous. But I mentioned them in passing to AHOY's Sarah Litt, and she basically said Send 'em anyway, ya never know! Good advice. And one of the two sold!
The Copperhead Kid was originally a character I came up with for Eternity Man, a superhero novel I started writing and ultimately put aside for now. The Kid in my short story is the same guy (albeit without a mask), but the story I wrote for him was new. It was the kind of creative sequence a writer wishes could happen more often: I decided I wanted to write a Western, just because; an idea occurred to me, and the damned thing practically wrote itself in no time.
I enjoy writing fiction and nonfiction, memoirs (and more memoirs, and more memoirs still) and pop histories, pure pulp, superheroes, and occasional humor. I have a unique idea for a comic book series, and I need to find some time to develop that into something more real than the random fragments in my head. Yesterday morning, I think I figured out what I want my next book to be. I also want to write a novel. Time remains the enemy. First and foremost among writing projects, I need to get going with The Greatest Record Ever Made! My prospective agent is interested in that, warning me that it will be a difficult book to sell, but still telling me "This looks great," and saying the Buddy Holly chapter made her cry. In a good way.
A reaction. A genuine, human reaction. As someone who's always, always wanted to be a writer, reactions like that are all I've ever really hoped for.
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