I have always loved horror and I have my father to thank for that. Though my mother would later tell me later that my father was actually afraid of horror movies (he left her sitting in the Exorcist in 1972 because it frightened him so bad), he had a very enchanting way of making horror sound captivating. He would tell me, with a deep voice, about Dracula and his castle. How a cursed man can turn into a werewolf and the terrible things the Invisible Man did to his victims. And to accent these terror tales we would watch the old Universal horror movies together on Saturday nights on PBS on a 13 inch black and white TV he kept in his den.
So imagine his suprise when he started to see the “modern” monsters of horror gracing my wall. As much as he hated seeing Freddy, Jason, Pinhead and Michael Meyers on my wall and in my video library, he continued to fuel me with the likes of King, Barker, and Straub by buying me their books for my literary library. My mother didn’t help the matter much by providing me with a book of Edgar Allen Poe’s collective works.
The books were my favorite because I could envision the sequences in my mind (hence the anger I spewed whenever a beloved book was turned into a bad movie) and I was always up on whatever my favorite authors were printing. When I knew for certain I was going to be a writer, I knew I wanted to write horror for sure.
Though writing in general is not easy, certain genres I found were more difficult than others. Horror is one of the more difficult. It’s not just the style that makes it difficult, the subject matter as well is hard to. It’s not easy to scare an reader. Many of the classic monsters that we have grown up with have changed so much that they have lost their appeal. Vampires, for example, have come to the point where the reader now sympathizes with the monster rather than fear it. What used to destroy them we are now told are myths (the myth has myths) and that they are now misunderstood creatures of the night. Trying to revert back to the classic image now is nearly impossible.
So I sat down and started to think of different kinds of stories to tell. I made a list of things that scare me, conventional monsters and monsters in nature (i.e. plants and animals) that either maim or kill.
Once I had enough on the list I began to weed out the ones that would not make a strong story. There were just some creatures that just would go over well in a horror story; the ones that you could believe would come after you in the dark. I kept the traditional ones like vampires, werewolves and ghosts. Then I added spiders, mosquitoes and plants along with a couple of aliens and a demon. I threw in a couple of surprises just to spice it up and when I was done I began writing.
Many of the stories had already been fleshed out prior to the list. They were stories I had already begun so I added them to the list in order to focus on finishing them. Now my mind works in a very strange way. By that I mean that while I was finishing one story I had started writing two others. So I would have three word windows open on my computer and I would switch back and forth from story to story as ideas for each came to me. This didn’t speed up the process but it did keep me on top of things.
While doing the stories, I started to think about a name for the book. I had first considered using one of the story titles followed by “and other stories of horror and suspense” but that had been used too many times before. I needed an original name, something that snapped and was very different.
I love to play with words (if you read Gamble you know what I mean) and I did that very thing with this book. Since I knew I was writing an anthology of horror stories, I decided to mesh the two words (horror and anthology) together to form one. Removing “olo” and replacing it with the word horror, I came up with Anthorrorgy. Pronouncing it, some people found, was difficult so how I explained it was like this: You say it the same way you would say anthology except you have the word horror in the middle (ie. An – thor –rorgy). It takes some getting used to but once you get it, you understand it.
Once I had the name, I started thinking about the cover. I wanted something really disturbing but not gross for the cover. I spent a lot of time looking at covers for horror novels and many of them weren’t really that eye catching. It seemed that as long as the authors name was large and yelling out at the reader, that’s all it took. The cover art was very subtle and maybe hinted on what was inside, but for the most part they didn’t seem to be big attention grabbers.
I then turned to the fantasy novels for some help and noticed that almost every cover had either some kind of action sequence or battle ready character that drew the reader in. I liked that concept so I decided that was one way to go.
But a lot of those covers were drawn. The artwork was impeccable and eye catching. I had been told that artwork, in terms of the kind of fiction I was doing, was not the best idea for a cover. But I knew that it would have to do for what I was thinking about for the cover. I had developed a very distinct idea in my head about what I wanted at that point and no photographer was going to be able to capture it.
The idea came from two of the stories in the book; The Pheromone Incident and Five by Seven. Both stories were unsettling in the fact that the people in them were suffering great deals of pain at the hands of some creature. So I wanted to showcase someone in great pain, but which of the two creatures to showcase was the question.
I went with the one I knew everyone could identify with and that was the spider. But I was particular about the kind of spider it would be. I chose the Australian Funnel Web Spider, one of the worlds deadliest spiders, as my “model”. The idea was to show it crawling out of a person’s mouth as their screaming in agony while their eyes were stitched closed. Knowing no one in the world would voluntarily put one in their mouth for a photo shoot, I had to find someone who could bring the concept to life.
At the time, I was part of a lightsber stage combat crew called NY Jedi. The group was comprised of many different artists, musicians and writers who all had a soft spot for performing and lightsaber lore. In this group I met an artist named Tara Lopez who was working on a comic strip she was pushing to the public. On her website, I found wonderful sketches and designs but what caught my eye was a style of “living art”. It’s where the art work looked almost alive. Peoples features were distinct and simply amazing.
I approached her with the idea of doing a book cover and she was excited about it until she heard the idea. She literally cringed because, as I found out, spiders were not her thing. I knew from that response I had a great cover coming. I gathered pictures of the spider in its most menacing poses and gave them to her and left her to do her work.
I went back to writing and editing the stories. When I was done I had fourteen stories I felt would work well in the book. But as I did a reread of each one, I started to discover that some of them just didn’t fit right. They were all good but there were some that I could use for a different book at a later date so I removed them. Then I decided to take a page from The Twilight Zone and write an introduction for each one. But after I put the chosen few together, the introductions seemed to be a bit much. They felt forced rather than adding something special as I intended them to. So upon working on the fourth draft, I got rid of the introductions and left the stories alone.
Next was to put them order. I had read that Stephen King, for his anthology of stories in Everything’s Eventual, used a deck of cards to help him decide the order for his stories. I went in order of when the stories were created. So the oldest and more seasoned stories came first then the newer stories followed. The final story in the book, however, was chosen specifically because it was a precursor to a series I had been working on for several years.
Satisfied with the order, I did one more edit before I got the cover from Tara and put the book together. I sent the book to the printer and had twenty copies printed right away. I sent one to the book reviewer and the others I handed out as review copies. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
One reviewer called me and said that he and his wife found errors running rapid through the book. That is probably the worse thing a writer can hear. He sent me a list of the pages I needed to look at and I went back to work correcting the stories. While working on the corrections, I discovered another minor setback; a story that did not fit with the others. The whole situation began to frustrate me so I walked away from the book for a week so that I could gather my thoughts.
I ended up taking off two weeks then I picked the book up again and got back to work. With a fresh set of eyes, I was able to find the errors and clean the manuscript up. Then I removed the story Ms. Elliston and put it to the side to use in another collection. I passed the revised edition onto an editor who made sure the mistakes were corrected then I prepped the book for print.
As I awaited the book to be reprinted, I began looking into redoing A Gamble of Faith with a new cover and a new description on the back. I contacted IUniverse to see if I could send a new cover in and they told me in order to change the cover, I needed to pay the same processing fee I did when I set the book up. I thought that was a bit much seeing as how the interior of the book was not changing. But it was further explained that they would have to issue me a new ISBN number on the new cover and that constituted as a new set up.
I took a few days to think about it and came to the conclusion that if I was going to pay to have the book redone under IUniverse, I might as well move the title under Hobbcat Publishing where I could have the freedom to do what I needed and it would be easier to manage. So I wrote a letter to IUniverse telling them that I wanted to discontinue my novel with them and that the book had been picked up by another publishing company.
While awaiting an answer from them, I began rewriting A Gamble of Faith. My original manuscript had been lost when my computer crashed and I had to begin again from scratch. Using one of the IUniverse copies I began working on copying the story over and adding a few new details to the story.
Anthorrorgy, meanwhile, made it to print and was released in May followed by a book review featured in the New York Amsterdam News. I put together a release party for the book which had a strong turnout and soon after I went back to working on A Gamble of Faith.
I went back to Marion Designs for the cover again. I knew that I wanted to keep the same theme as the original cover but I didn’t want to carbon copy it using models. I gave them a few ideas to work with and settled on a design that kept the card game feel. Whereas the original artistic cover captured nearly all the characters on the front, the new cover only encompassed three of the characters during a pivotal moment in the game.
The layout was the next phase and that outcome was surprising to say the least. When I first published the book with IUniverse, the print was small and page count was around 170 pages. This time around, the book length was 270 pages with the print size slightly larger. For the exception of a few additions, the manuscript was pretty much the same one I had originally wrote. So I had to ask myself why the original Gamble was so much thinner and smaller than this revised edition. Putting the two side by side I was able to see the difference in font seizes, page size and spacing. In the end I didn’t worry about what the book used to be, only that it was now the book it should have been all along and I was pleased with it.
A Gamble of Faith was re-released in June, a month after Anthorrorgy made its debut. I didn’t do as heavy of a release with Gamble since it technically wasn’t a new title. I did have a small release party for it which allowed people who had not read it to finally get a copy.
With the launch of two books, I went on to the Brooklyn Book Fair in September. Anthorrorgy, with its frightening cover and blurb from the Amsterdam News, drew readers right away. Those who were disturbed by the cover turned their sights to A Gamble of Faith and The Hooky Party for more light hearted reading. Sales went well for Hobbcat Publishing, Inc. and a week later I was back to work on A Gamble of Faith again. This time, I was working on revising the play.
- Marc L Abbott
- I am a self published author from Brooklyn, New York. I have been publishing my work since 2004 and currently have four titles on the market in print and ebook format. I write horror and fantasy fiction as well as books for young adult. I am also a playwright with stage productions in and around New York City. Visit my website at www.hobbcatpublishing.com