Tracing The Trails : A Journey Of Words
Tomorrow I will be releasing a new book. It will be my eleventh and certainly no new experience on the surface but what sets this aside is that it’s my first venture into the world of non-fiction. And at the same time paying tribute to one of my biggest literary influences.
To tell the story of how this book came about, you have to go all the way back to 2013. I was in the process of gathering what would be my first published book, a collection of shorter stories. And at the time, one of the more popular pieces of advice for new writers that was inflicted on us was that you needed to have a blog.
As a brief aside at this point, it didn’t take long before I realized how this advice was leading me down a path, several years too over-trodden. There had simply been too many years, too many writers and too many blogs for me to have a shot at obtaining followers. It would take pretty much as much time, work and luck as it was to get my books noticed. Now, most people’s dog likely have a blog of their own.
At the time, this was not knowledge I was privy to and the challenge for me was figuring out what kind of a blog I wanted to do.
I knew it wasn’t going to be an observational blog. While I’m certainly not apathetic from a political standpoint – I have my leanings and my opinions – I’ve always been of the type to keep that to myself for the most part. And writing a political blog just didn’t seem to make sense in the context of what I do. I’m not a public figure. I write horror books, no one should care what I think.
At some point I had tripped over the idea of using a blog to promote my short fiction, to give readers a snapshot of my literary style. I published a new, micro-short story every week and before long I was looking to do more, to diversify the content.
The books of Stephen King had been nagging at me for some time, in terms of the role they had played in my life and my development as a writer. I hadn’t kept up with his newer works and I found myself getting more curious about how his writing style had developed from the glory days which I had been a part of.
I’ve always been somewhat of a completionist when it comes to investing in art and culture. I remember in college going through a rabid phase when I had to have every single Rolling Stones album. I bought albums, even knowing they were stinkers. Because it was a Rolling Stones album and I was a fan. I had to have it. Ten years or so ago, I experienced a resurgence in my reading of comics and before I knew it, I had a list of ten or twelve titles that our local shop was pulling for me, money I was investing in titles because I had to have all of them, not because I was enjoying them, necessarily. I had a flash-image of the future when, following my death my family was left to deal with several gross ton of aged comics that I had rarely read more than once and I forced myself to stop.
I blame this mentality somewhat for the little voice in the back of my head that suggested it would be a good idea to read King’s books. All of them. And in order. What better way to learn my craft than to travel down the same narrative paths as had my favorite author?
I immediately rejected the notion as absurd. How could I possibly do such a thing? Even five years ago, before he had added another eight or so books, taking in his massive bibliography felt like standing at the base of K2 with nothing but a light jacket and some clothesline. It would take me a decade, minimum. And that wasn’t even accounting for all the books that would be published after I started, making my to-read pile that much larger.
It was crazy.
It was absurd.
Then again, being a writer isn’t indicative of the most sane state of mind in the first place.
I couldn’t get the thought out of my head and ultimately what I kept settling on was, what did I have to lose? Even if I failed to reach the end, so what? I’d still be taking time to read some great books. And it wasn’t like I had millions or even hundreds of fans waiting on baited breath for my next release or blog post.
So I transferred my audiobook edition of Carrie onto my iPod and a journey of a million words began with one step.
It would be months after that re-read of Carrie before I posted an actual review or announced my intentions with the project. At the time there was no dedicated blog, just special articles I would put out on a monthly basis. I had to be strategic with my timing because the last thing I needed was the stress of posting a review and realizing that I still had to even read the next book on the list.
Eventually I was far enough ahead that I felt like the blog could stand on its own, so the content was all moved to its own, dedicated site. Towards the end, some of those reviews would be posted here on Machine Mean as well. And this is how it would go until I wrapped things up in 2017.
People have asked me if there were any points where I wanted to call the entire thing off. I don’t want to come off as patting myself on the back for how “smart” I was because that’s obviously not true. But I think I was able to go about the project in a way that allowed for as little stress and demand as possible. While I held myself to a schedule, it wasn’t like I had a publisher looming over my neck, demanding the “next thing.”
And I was really liking the books. Even the titles I was more lukewarm on I still found reasons to enjoy. Out of all of them, The Regulators and Lisey’s Story were the ones I felt like I was struggling somewhat to come back to. But even then I still felt that the path I was on would inevitably lead to that final post in December of last year.
I honestly thought at the time that I was done with the project and had no intentions of taking it any further. And even when I started to entertain the notion of compiling all of this into a book, I initially thought it would be little more than a ninety-nine cent kindle throwaway. Somehow along the way, it became a book that I was extremely proud of. I realized that the book was almost becoming just as much about me as it was about Stephen King.
There is a ton of content that wasn’t on the blog originally. There are guest reviews from some of my favorite authors in the genre. There are original essays from myself dealing with subjects like the movies of King as well as the horror genre in general. And most importantly, my original reviews for King’s six short story collections have been completely rewritten. I have compiled a section with my reactions to every individual short story, spanning his entire career.
It’s a thrill to finally be able to offer this book to you. It represents five years of my life, five years well spent among the covers of some fantastic books. I hope you’ll consider checking it out.