The Mad and The Macabre’s Twisty Route To Publication by Jeff Strand

The Mad and The Macabre by Jeff StrandI certainly hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday, and that you’ve also enjoyed Jeff Strand Week. Personally, I’m very thankful that Jeff found a balance to his meds that lasted long enough for him to write this guest blog. Enjoy!

So one day Michael McBride, Brian Knight, and I decided to write a book.

I’ve known both of them for several years, though the only time all three of us crossed paths in real life was the 2007 World Horror Convention, where most of our conversation consisted of variations on “Ha ha! You don’t have a book deal with a major New York publisher! You must suck!”

(The reason we could say this and have it be delightfully amusing was that none of us had a book deal with a major New York publisher. It’s the same principle that allows me to say “Ha ha! You didn’t win the Bram Stoker Award! You must suuuuck!”)

(Of course, I later published Pressure and Dweller with Leisure Books, forcing me to retire the joke. But then Leisure canceled its mass market paperback line shortly before Wolf Hunt could be published–actually, it was scheduled for THIS VERY WEEK if you’re reading this the day Elizabeth posts it, so the pain is still piping hot–and I pulled the book. So I’m not quite sure if I can make fun of people who don’t have New York publishing deals or not. Maybe I’m only allowed to make fun of other Leisure authors. I’ll have to research this.)

Shortly after the convention, Brian wrote a Storytellers Unplugged column that mentioned Mike and I, and some wheels began to turn, and we said “Hey, we should write a book together!” We weren’t looking to actually collaborate, for that path often leads to bloodshed. We just thought that we should each write a novella and publish them together in one book. With all of the cross-pollination that already existed in our respective readerships, the book would sell out in approximately 73 seconds.

We did not have a publisher, and we were all busy with other projects, so we decided that this would be a “When we feel like working on it, no deadline, no pressure, just whenever we get a chance” sort of thing. But we also decided that the person who finished first could sort of, y’know, nudge the others if they were so inclined.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT MICHAEL MCBRIDE: Mike’s approach toward the writing process involves the odd concept of “not procrastinating.” In Mike’s wacky world, you write at a steady pace on a regular basis, and then suddenly you have a completed book. This procedure seems kind of silly to those of us who swear by the “AAAHHH!!! AAAHHH!! My deadline is in a couple of days! Panic panic panic panic panic!!!” approach, but it works for him.

And thus Mike had a novella, Remains, while Brian and I did not.

Inspired by his initiative, I proceeded to write up a blog entry called “The Kutter Diaries, Day 1” where I talked about how I was starting a novella, and how on a daily basis I would discuss its progress in great detail, providing a fascinating behind the scenes look at the writing process. I never really followed through with it, except I think for “The Kutter Diaries, Day 30” where I said something like “Well, I still haven’t written past the first couple of paragraphs.”

Then, one day, Mike e-mailed me and explained that there was a brand-new publisher called Cargo Cult Press who wanted a novella from him, and if Kutter was nearing completion he’d still use Remains for our book, but otherwise he’d send it to CCP. A handy rule for authors is “If somebody is offering you money for a book that you’ve already written, you sell it to them instead of waiting for your slacker author buddy to finish his part of a project that has no publisher.” I told him to take the offer.

He did. At which point, upon hearing the origins of Remains, CCP owner Brian Cartwright asked if the other two novellas were available. And suddenly Kutter had a publisher and a deadline…which was kind of scary, because Kutter was written as a personal challenge. Could I take a thoroughly detestable main character and have the reader sympathize with him by the end of the book? It’s not hard to get people to like a charismatic villain, but Charlie the serial killer was a pathetic, unlikeable, wretched little creep.

I wrote the book and thought it worked pretty darn well.

So, Cargo Cult Press published Remains, then Brian Knight’s Sex, Blood and Honey, and then Kutter, although by the time Kutter came out, Cargo Cult Press was no longer owned by Brian Cartwright and had become an imprint of Larry Roberts’ Bloodletting Press, who had recently published my book The Severed Nose. Small press horror has no lack of incest.

THE UPSIDE: Kutter appeared in a beautiful hardcover limited edition, illustrated by Tom Moran. It sold out quickly and will someday be worth enough to pay for your own live-in masseuse.

THE DOWNSIDE: When a novella is published in an 85-copy edition retailing for $85, there’s not a lot of actual reading going on.

Of course, I’d announced from the very beginning that Kutter would definitely be available in a more affordable edition. Publishing in the collectors’ market is a tricky balancing act of “Getting your book out to as many readers as possible” vs. “Enraging the people who paid for the deluxe edition.”

I toyed with a couple of other ideas, and then asked Mike and Brian what they thought about returning to the original idea and reprinting the three novellas as one book?

Mike said “Sure!”

Brian said that he’d love to, but he’d already sold the paperback rights to Sex, Blood, and Honey.

I said “Yeah, well, our book is gonna sell a million copies and Mike and I are gonna get rich and you’ll be sorry! Don’t come crying to us! We hate you, don’t we, Mike? You’ve just made yourself a couple of powerful, powerful enemies! You see my signed copy of your chapbook Apocalypse Green? I just scribbled out your signature! Ha!”

(That last paragraph may be faulty memory on my part. If so, I apologize.)

And thus it became a two-novella collection. Instead of going with the awkward double title of Kutter / Remains, we branded it as The Mad & The Macabre, a phrase taken from the opening crawl of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. (Total geeks will note that it’s actually “the mad and macabre” in the movie, without the second “the,” but really, there’s no reason to be a total geek about it.)

I’d started working with Dark Regions Press, who’d published hardcover editions of my novels Dweller and Wolf Hunt, and the paperback of Gleefully Macabre Tales, so it was a pretty easy decision to pitch the book to them. One “yes” later, and The Mad & The Macabre was born.

As I write this, it hasn’t yet been made available to order, but as you read this, it has. Which means that if the paperback edition of Wolf Hunt had come out as originally scheduled, I’d be trying to promote two books the same week. Gosh, that would certainly suck, wouldn’t it? I guess things happen for a reason.

Jeff Strand is the author of over a dozen books, including Pressure and Gleefully Macabre Tales, both of which were nominated for the Bram Stoker award, Dweller, Benjamin’s Parasite, and the Andrew Mayhem series. Jeff also recently co-authored the e-book Draculas with F. Paul Wilson, Jack Kilborn (aka J.A. Knorath), and Blake Crouch. To learn more about Jeff Strand, visit his website.
Jeff Strand Week: November 22-26, 2010


  • C.A.Newman

    November 27, 2010 - 10:10 PM

    Hahaha! Awesome guest blog. The “IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT MICHAEL MCBRIDE” had me doing a spit take.

    • Elizabeth A. White

      November 27, 2010 - 10:19 PM

      Jeff really is funny. If you haven’t read any of his stuff, I think you’d really like DWELLER and the ANDREW MAYHEM series. And THE SEVERED NOSE.

  • sabrina ogden

    November 26, 2010 - 11:59 AM

    I was intrigued by Mr. Strand this week and that dumped five of his works onto my kindle…it would have been more but my husband was sitting by me and I think he eventually would have noticed my purchases. I have to say the cover art that I’ve seen this week has been fascinating, and I probably would have been a fan of horror much earlier if all book covers looked so damn cool. Thanks for the time you took to put this week together. It has been truly rewarding for me. I’m a Strand follower, and yes, I plan to stalk him on twitter.

    • Elizabeth A. White

      November 27, 2010 - 10:20 PM

      Glad you are intrigued enough to give him a try. 🙂

  • Shaun Jeffrey

    November 26, 2010 - 10:20 AM

    Great post telling of the books journey from inception to completion 🙂

    • Elizabeth A. White

      November 26, 2010 - 11:49 AM

      I don’t think the average reader really has a feel for some of the insanity that goes on behind the scenes during the process of bringing a book to print.