Rich Chizmar, Cemetery Dance … a Flashback Post
I am in the middle of a HUGE reorganization of all my writing files, backups, folders, books, stories… and more. I’ve rediscovered things I’ve lost, found things I don’t even remember writing… and it’s set in motion a great fixing and cleansing of things… One thing I have found is that I have written a LOT of articles, reviews, blog posts, etc… and some of it bears revisiting. Some of the comments in this post are dated – because it’s 2016, and the article was written in 2004…
It defines a moment in my career, and those who know my work know how I feel about Defining Moments…
Without Further Ado:
Some time in 1988, I’m not sure what month; I was sitting around with my good buddy John B. Rosenman. He and I were in a writing frenzy that year, and in years to come. We submitted to any market that surfaced on the horizon, and, having been at it longer than I had been at the time, John was very successful at landing slots in them. I was telling him about a story I’d sold to After Hours Magazine, and he told me about the premiere issue of Cemetery Dance. He showed me the magazine; its cover was a sort of grotesque, striking black and white illustration. I knew a lot of the folks being published in that first issue – others I did not know. I didn’t know Rich Chizmar, for one, and made a mental note that I should do so.
What followed was a period in my career where two men saw (literally) hundreds of thousands of words of my earlier fiction and turned it all down. Between Stephen Mark Rainey at Deathrealm, and Rich Chizmar, I probably produced two novels worth of short stories that were not quite right for their publications. Still, I continued, because they were encouraging. Rich, in particular, was an inspiration to me. I was publishing a magazine called The Tome, and though I was having successes of my own, I watched Rich go quickly from a solid start to the successor to Dave Silva’s Horror Show in literally only a few issues. Everyone was talking about Cemetery Dance, and this spurred me on both to improve my own magazine, and to write something that would catch Rich’s attention.
Oddly, when I finally did so, it was a story he’d already passed on. Somehow my tale, “The Mole,” stuck with him, and one day I got a phone call. “Do you still have that tunnel rat story?” he asked. That moment changed my career forever – I believe that. It was a sale I had coveted since the late eighties, and when it finally happened (that was the Fall, 1990 issue) it felt like one of those career-changing epiphanies. When that same story was reprinted in “The Best of Cemetery Dance,” I was in heaven. That was another first that Rich gave me – my first appearance in a book signed by myself and by Stephen King (thankfully not my last). I went on to sell a number of stories to Rich over the years and a novella, and he has always been encouraging to me – very positive and upbeat despite the curve balls life has thrown us both.
I have to say that when I first sat and leafed through issue number one of Cemetery Dance, I should have been more perceptive. He hit the horror business like a comet and we never saw him coming. After fifteen years and more than fifty publications, (Remember, this was written back in 2004) and with a future as bright as he wants it to be, Rich is the guy we should all be looking to when we need inspiration – and has always been there for me when I needed his support. Congratulations on 15 years of amazing accomplishments Rich. We still need to get together for golf.