Like many writers, I've been writing since childhood. However, my life path first took me to other places—the music industry; the military; the alternate universe known as Arkansas, where time flows backwards—and my writing pursuits remained haphazard compared to everything else I was doing. I worked in Rough Draft mode until I hit 30. And even then I was only thinking about finally writing in a serious manner. It wasn't until 2008 that I finally shed my old skin and put my (sweet) ass in the chair.
In the three years since, I've worked hard at my craft, constructing and deconstructing stories over and over again, looking for new ways to tell the same tale. Before settling on what I felt was the best version it could hope to be, I wrote and rewrote "Bye-bye, Little Doggies" about a hundred times, and in doing so I learned so much about things like technique, economy of words, and what girls hate in a horror story (read it and you'll understand). I've done the same to dozens of other tales and learned just as much from each one.
But despite all the progress I've made, I'm still pessimistic. And here's one example of why that is:
Since coming home from Necon this past Sunday, I've been reading Transients and Other Disquieting Stories, a short-story collection by Darrell Schweitzer. To put it simply, I am in awe of his writing: the fluidity of the words, the pacing, the characters, everything is in sync and beautifully written, and on top of it all the stories are fantastic. (Why isn't this cat more popular? I demand to know!) When I read something I've written, I want to feel those same things. I am fully aware that all artists are extra critical of their work, but I still think I've got a long way to go before I'm that good.
However, maybe I'm a little too cynical.
I was just trolling the Internet, looking for reviews of The Zombie Feed, Vol. 1—which, as some of you know, contains my story "Goddamn Electric"—and I came across this Amazon.com review, by Marci Kesserich. In it, she had this to say about my story:
"Goddamn Electric" by K. Allen Wood - Another favorite, if for no other reason than that this is one of the best-written pieces in the anthology. Phrases like "sounds meant for nightmares" are unfamiliar yet compelling constructs, forcing the mind to imagine a scene unlike any it's ever attempted before. Wood has also attempted to make the zombie story his own by postulating a meteorological/electrical cause for the problem, though the action unfolds as expected from that point, with enough shotgun blasts to the head and torso to reassure any zombie aficionado that they remain on safe ground. It's nice to see an author take the extra effort to make a well-worn genre trope their own, and Wood's story is distinctly his - you'll not mistake its prose for anyone else's.
Marci set my heart aflutter with that.
"Goddamn Electric" was my second sale (I just received my third acceptance last Thursday), so it's a ridiculously wonderful feeling to have someone I don't know be that positive about something I've written. It encourages me to work harder and fuss less. Because maybe I'm doing something right after all.
So thank you, dear Marci, whoever you are.