The Ladies of Horror Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
The Last by Rie Sheridan Rose
The world is a desolate place now. Ash and agony are all that remain. I watched my fellows slip away one by one…succumbing to plague or pestilence or merely stubborn pride. Anyone who could afford to took to the colony ships and left this wasteland. My mother begged me to join her—even as she backed up the gangway and deserted me.
But I felt a duty to this place. This land of my birth and home of my ancestors. Despite the burning hell it had become, I remembered the lush green paradise it had once been, and I believed with all my heart I could make it so again.
That dream is gone. The moon no longer eclipses the sun, but channels it. It sits in the perfect frame of the archways that used to give onto…
Way back in 2013, I came across a call for submissions looking for collaboration between two writers who’d never met in real life. I reached out to Kerry Lipp, whose writing style and sense of humor I admired, and asked if he wanted to write a story with me. Neither of us had ever done that, so we stumbled our way through 3900 words of a ridiculous tale of a man who wakes up physically dead but still mentally sharp. It was creepy, disgusting, and hilarious. We sold it.
I asked is he wanted to do another one, and he said, “Sure! Whatcha got?” So, I sent Kerry this scene I had written but didn’t know where to go with. It featured an aging (but bad-ass) bounty hunter interrogating a punk. He loved the character, Johnny Headcase, and wrote another couple thousand words. We went back and forth, each trying to leave the other on a mad cliffhanger or an “impossible” situation for our heroes to get out of. We laughed and said “holy shit!” a lot, and overall had a blast writing this thing. At some point, we realized that we’d been at it for a while and checked the word count. We had written over 25,000! We’d made a novella! This was kind of amazing, as we had only planned on writing a short. However, the story wasn’t done yet, so we kept at it. Somehow, we blasted past 50,000 words and…we had a book!
One of the characters, Gavin the Werewolf, was still under contract with a publisher (they had first rights of refusal), so we offered the novel to them. They loved it, worked with us to edit it so it was publication-ready, and we were stoked. Unfortunately, the publisher, after much soul-searching deliberation, realized that this book, while a hell of a fun read, did not, in fact, fit the demographic of their readership. They produce horror and romance books, and this was neither. Sure, it had monsters: vampires, trolls, goat-demons, and more. Sure, it had sex (rather a lot of fairly graphic sex). But it wasn’t really horror. It wasn’t romance. It was this weird hybrid, genre-jumping, unclassifiable thing. So, they gave it back.
Kerry and I sent it out to a couple of other publishers who passed on it. We tried not to take it personally. Then, I asked my publisher, LVP Publications, for whom I am the Managing Editor of Collections and Anthologies (impressive title, no?) if they’d take a look at the book. They said okay, to send the first chapter. The first chapter is crazy short. So, they asked for the first five. And then they asked for the rest of the book. Then for character descriptions. They accepted it!
Kerry and I had written an origin story for one of the four main characters: Lydia, a half-human, half-demon warrior, and asked if they wanted to include it as a sort of coda. They read it and asked us to write one for each of the other three. We were like, “Oh. Okay. Sure.” And, somehow, managed to crank these out too. So, after five years or so, HEADCASE is finally about to see the light of day. It’s being released serially, one quarter at a time (with an origin story attached to each), in both eBook and paperback. There will also be an audiobook available, once all four sections have been published.
This is a series of firsts for me: first novel, first time having anything serialized, first audiobook. I couldn’t be happier with the responses we’ve been getting so far! People are excited about this crazy little book. No one more so than me and Kerry, of course. We started the sequel, so you know. Hopefully, it won’t take another five years to get this one out!
So, because I took a chance and asked a virtual stranger to write a story with me, I have not only a debut novel imminent but also a solid friendship with someone I genuinely admire and get along with well. You never know until you reach out. Thank you for listening.
Here’s a link to the book trailer. If you think it’s something you’d like to read, the preorder links are in the YouTube video’s comments. You can order just the first section, the first and second, or the whole shebang.
[Since the new WordPress editor embedded the really cool video, here are the links for your convenience: