As I mentioned in my previous post, my e-book singles store is up and running on my website, www.garrettcalcaterra.com. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be highlighting each of the e-books, to give readers a little insight into the inspiration, origins, and the story behind the story, so to speak. First up is one of the two stories I’m giving away for free.
The Sway of the Dead
Promo Code: ZOMBIES (Nook, iPad, Android), or ZOMBIES2 (Kindle)
After the infamous Night of the Bear, this story is the raciest and most offensive of my stories. It started with a pen and paper on a plane ride back in 2007, and the first line just came to me:
Ferric Smith found little joy in xxxxxxx zombie girls, but he was too full of life to not be copulating with someone or something, and in a concrete and steel girder city full of zombies, that meant zombie girls.
I’m not sure where my head was at the time, not sure I want to know, but that’s how it started, with a dude boning down on zombies. If I remember correctly, I wanted to a write a story for a specific (and now defunct) magazine that was looking for gritty, urban horror, so yeah, that’s my excuse. Anyhow, it was one of those rare stories that was written more or less in one sitting and came about very organically. After getting feedback from my writing group, The Inklings 2, I made some revisions and sent it out. It got rejected from the magazine I’d specifically written it for, then went on to collect dozens of other rejection letters over the next three years. Getting a ton of rejections is hardly unique in this business, but the nature of the rejection letters I was getting for this story was rather astounding.
Typically, magazine editors send out form rejection letters, sometimes taking the time to actually sign the letter, usually not, but almost always polite. “The Sway of the Dead,” however, was getting hand-written, personalized, rejection letters, and the rejection letters were almost hostile. Here’s a sampling:
You set our expectations quite high with what has to be the best opening line we've read in weeks. And your core concept—a man living among zombies who has no idea he isn't one of them—could produce a really excellent story. Unfortunately, this isn't that story.
-Triangulation: Dark Glass
With Ferric [the protagonist], you have an unsympathetic protagonist, a jerk really...
There's a lot to like here. The almost matter-of-fact way [Tara] blows zombies up, [Ferric's] emotions at meeting a human. But the underlying message, the suspicion that the zombies are merely human conformists that Ferric and Tara disrespect, starts to eat at the strangeness (and by implication makes them murderers).
-Not One of Us
We had a bit of a debate about this one among the editors, but decided against the usual zombie themes for our project.
-InfraDEAD: Tales of Human Extinction
Almost all of us felt, also—while not remotely shy about sex scenes—these ones seemed more gratuitous than integral to the story.
Some authors might have been discouraged by such feedback. Not me. I knew if the story was getting such a rise out of editors, it would have a visceral impact on readers, so I kept sending it out and it eventually found a home in the anthology, Erotic Dreamspell. Unfortunately, the anthology has not sold well, but the publisher was gracious enough to revert the rights back to me early. I offer it up now for free for the world to read. Is it pornography? Subversive propaganda? Hell if know. I just wrote it thinking it was a cool zombie story. You tell me.