(Originally published March 8, 2017 on peterndudar.wordpress.com)
Sometimes I have to pinch myself.
When I look back to the beginning of my writing career, it always felt like I was a fish out of water; that I was an isolated vessel on a sea of authors also trying to get published. This business is everything you’ve heard it to be. It’s turbulent. It’s frustrating. It’s at times excruciating. It can wreak havoc on your self-esteem and leave you broken and humbled. A lot of writers give up and move on, never to be heard from again. Others keep going. And eventually, success finds them.
It was the thrill of a lifetime the day my first acceptance letter arrived. It arrived like a gift from the gods, and felt like vindication after the scores of rejection letters that had cluttered up the bottom drawer of my filing cabinet after so many years. I remember reading the letter over and over again and feeling as if I’d finally gotten my foot in the door, and that my craft had finally reached a level where I would be taken seriously as a writer. That first acceptance is a giant milestone in any writer’s career. In spite of all the words you may have written and all the stories you’ve completed up to that point, it’s that first sale that marks the beginning of your publishing career.
And then you mature. You make your next sale, and the one after that, and then the next, and suddenly you have a bibliography. And suddenly you become aware of the caliber of writers that you are now appearing beside in the Table of Contents. It feels like you’re living in a dream when your own work is sitting in an anthology along with some of your literary heroes. I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming that I’ve appeared in books with authors like Rick Hautala and William F. Nolan and Tim Waggoner. I find myself wondering how I got this far and whether or not I belong here. There are a lot of A-list authors in the horror genre, and to read their work and see how much better it is than your own will either inspire you to work harder and do better or it will send you packing. For me, the answer is to try harder and prove my worth. Quitting is not an option.
But finally, you reach a point where you come full circle. I’m at a place now where the names in the TOC aren’t as important to me as the quality of the stories being presented. Stephen King once wrote, “It is the tale, not he who tells it”, and that line has become a credo for me. Where I’m at now is a place where I take greater pleasure in seeing the names of my friends and colleagues in the genre appearing beside me in not just one but numerous anthologies. We call ourselves “Antho-buddies”; an endearing term I picked up from my good friend Tony Tremblay. It gives me so much satisfaction and pleasure not only to watch my own career grow, but to watch the trajectories of some of my closest friends as their careers grow. The milestone isn’t that I was published in a book, but that we shared the experience together and got to revel together as each new review appears on Amazon. That is an amazing feeling.
Where I am right now is on the proverbial eve of publication for NORTHERN FRIGHTS, An Anthology of the Horror Writers of Maine. This book is a collection of very dark tales by authors from my home state. It is me with members of my writers group The Tuesday Mayhem Society. It is me with fellow authors who do group readings like the Midcoast Halloween Reading Series. It is me with new friends from the HWOM and old alums from the New England Horror Writers. It’s US. And this is OUR beast. For some, it will mark their first acceptance, and that is a really big deal. I congratulate you sincerely and am happy to tell you that if your work was selected, it means your work is good and you belong. It is my privilege to call you my Antho-buddy, and I hope that continues in the future. Where I’m at right now is overflowing with pride. I am blessed to work with some very talented people and NORTHERN FRIGHTS is a testament to that.
I have to pinch myself because where I’m at is pretty damn exciting. And if I AM sleeping, please don’t wake me.
Wishing success to Duane Coffill and David Price of the Horror Writers of Maine for conceiving and making this book a reality, and to Michael Evans of Grinning Skull Press for taking a chance on us. And to each and every author involved, my undying love and respect. Congratulations one and all.