Alex Shalenko is a former member of my alternate-history forum who has been very helpful with my writing career. He's got some very good news to share with you all...
Imagine this: you are fifteen years old. You are an awkward, bookish kid with a wardrobe straight out of some bad sitcom, more Star Trek posters than friends, and social skills to match. Now, imagine that you have a crush on a cute girl who, as conventional wisdom would have it, is more likely to date a football player, or perhaps that one guy in a band, or the proverbial cool kid who smokes cigarettes and has a fake ID to buy beer. Imagine that you ask the girl on a date, fully anticipating humiliating rejection or ridicule.
Imagine that she says yes.
Are you still with me? Good. Because this is what having a publishing contract feels like. And it is a great, wonderful feeling, accentuated by sprinkles of trepidation and anxiety. What will happen next? How much will the editing process alter the book? Will readers and reviewers like it? Will it sell?
At the very least, it will not be too long before those questions are answered.
I have to thank a fellow author and good friend Bruno Lombardi (whose excellent works I would heartily recommend) for pointing me in the direction of J. Ellington Ashton Press. One submission later found me looking at the e-mail containing a publishing contract, not quite believing my own eyes and excited beyond all measure, for now the story that began as a birthday present for my wife will finally see the light of day.
My path to the holy grail of aspiring authors took eight years from the time when I finished my first novel, or four years from the time I finished Bring Out the Dead. This was not the fastest journey, but if anything, it proved the value of perseverance, and, more than anything, the value of support from friends and family, without which little would have happened. Also, it does not hurt to know a thing or two about the topic you are writing about.
After all, being a Russian-speaking author with professional background in the financial industry turned out to be a major asset in writing Bring Out the Dead. Being married to a lifelong reader of horror fiction (whose birthday was coming up) turned out to be another. A chance posting of photographs from the toxic wasteland of Norilsk, Russia, made it all come together. From there, the novel pretty much wrote itself.
Just like real-life Norilsk, the fictional town of Severozavodsk has a dark history strewn with forced prisoner labor, blatant disregard for environment, and good old-fashioned greed. As with many places in the far corners of the world, it came with its own mythology, both from the hushed cautionary tales of the Soviet era, and from the native Nenets people who lived in the far north long before the march of civilization. It came with blizzards which could cut off a sizable city for weeks at a time, frozen earth that yields precious little of its bounty, the eternal conflict of the rational against the superstitious, of industry versus magic that comes out of hiding in the light of the northern aurora. And it came with people – tough, fatalistic people who hide their fear of the dark under a callous exterior.
So, Bring Out the Dead is the story of all these things and then some. When Jake Levin, the novel's protagonist, finds himself in Russia, he learns not only about a different culture, but also about himself, and whether or not he can face the darkness, change it or be changed by it. What happens next? Well, you will have to read to find out!
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