I had a place I could write for who would accept just about any story I wanted to send in. I tried not to submit slipshod work. I have standards, after all. But Man's Story 2 offered a supply of regular checks in exchange for the kinds of stories I would write for free. As I went, the pay doubled, yielding $50 per story instead of $25. I had them down to a science, writing a 3500 word draft and then whittling it back to 3000 words in a few hours. I was turning out material for fun and profit. However, I was doing this under pseudonym.
I wondered if I should keep the Blake name. Then I decided: what the hell. If Charles de Lint used Samuel Key to identify his more horror-themed works, then I could create a brand name. C. C. Blake would be my adventure fiction/thriller identity. Under my own name, I would continue to write whatever I pleased, but as C. C. Blake I would pump out popcorn fiction, and see what happened.
What happened was not fame, but a lengthy list of publication credits. So some of my stories got altered without anyone mentioning to to me--in one case, a completely different ending added on... What did I care? I had no illusions about what I was doing, and I was content to cash the checks. C. C. Blake was about money, not art. Simple as that.
Over time, that one magazine expanded into four different magazines, each pulpy but focused on different subjects: Man's Story 2, Vampires 2, Androids 2 and Paranormal Romance 2. I wrote for them all. Chuck Cave was my go to character, appearing in one form or another through most of the stuff I put out through the 2-magazines. His voice informed Rick Cave in my science fiction stories, which started with "Rick Cave and the Positronic Pretty." His incarnation as a supernatural thriller hero for Vampires 2 was just plain Cave, in stories with titles like "Cave and the Vamp". It's all terribly confusing now that I think back on it, at least from an internal consistency point of view. (Is the Cave of the Vampire stories somehow connected to the Chuck Cave of the non-supernatural thriller series? Well, kind of.) I'll cop to the best excuse: At the time, this all seemed like a good idea.
Eventually, the 2-Empire (my name for it) went dead silent. Kaput. Dead in the water. I had a backlog of material that had no homes, now. I had zero expectations that anyone else would want this stuff. Who publishes this kind of pulp fiction, anymore?
Though my main markets had dried up, I had a name with a publication track record though. For a while, I used it for low-end anthologies and markets. The ones that offered beans, the penny a word anthos. The ones with questionable publication philosophies (at least one overtly anti-GLBT publisher has published C. C. Blake's stories--anyone remember Journey Books Publishing? Probably best forgotten. I did and do, however, champion subversion from within). I was sending stories to the places professional writers should not consider submitting to, though I am somewhat happy to admit I never went to the ones that did not offer SOME form of monetary compensation; writing is work, it should not be free. Am I proud that I went with some of these places? Not really. Did I cash their checks? Yes. Yes, I did.
Pennies and scraps can be incredibly addictive. Low stakes can be every bit as involving as high stakes gambles. Worse, they can trap a person into thinking that this is all I deserve, this is all I can expect out of life, so I will become The King of the Golden River instead of trying to become the Duke of Earl or the motherhumping King of England.
Even then, however, I recognized how little the beans I was getting really were, so I started aiming higher, too. Putting together series fiction into book proposals (what the old guard of genre writers refer to as fix-up novels, or novels that are little more than glued together short stories. Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles is a classic case, and Chuck Palahniuk's Haunted is a more recent example, though a bit different), with an eye at delivering them to midlist mass market paperback publishers. It went nowhere, but building on the stories was kind of fun. Revisiting, expanding, rewriting, revising. I rediscovered the fun stuff and built on those parts. Didn't have much success with the publishers, but whatevs. I was enjoying what I did, and I was putting together lengthy projects I could draw upon in the future...
I wasn't sure what to do, though. Where to go. I was once again directionless.
Little did I realize that a ghost was waiting in the wings, ready, willing and able to haunt me.
(To Be Continued)
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