The past eighteen months or so have been both a whirlwind and incredibly validating. In January of ’22 I landed my first pro pay short story. I landed my second in February and the novella shortly after. Lots of milestones since then, but signing a deal with Cemetery Dance, who publish writing idols like Robert McCammon, it’s very, very special. The book will release in October of ’24. Lots of momentum to build between now and then. Very grateful to Kevin with CD and for friends who gave me the confidence to submit.
My first ever con as a vendor is in the books. That’s more of a literal statement than I intended considering what I was selling. I lost money as I expected, but it was never about making money. It was about meeting people, building relationships, and stuffing sweaty five-dollar bills in Brian Keene’s bra.
I am about three years away from being able to retire from the Air Force. Whether or not I am able to retire based on my family’s needs, is a different matter. What I discovered at Authorcon II is this is what I want to be doing. These are the friends I want to have, the people I want to meet. I am an extreme introvert, but talking shop with authors feels as natural as chatting with my siblings. It’s exciting to meet people who are excited about their ideas…and yours. As an author I sometimes treat my story ideas as a brown banana. Maybe someone will want it if I’m extra appreciative. The folks at Authorcon actually want to hear about my story ideas!
I met a couple people who know me from NoSleep, several for Stargazers. I was completely surprised to learn some people knew me not for either of those but for my short story collections. I even sold out of The Rat King! Authors, publishers, and horror fiction fans…you are my people.
If this is the first of many to come, it will hold a special place in my heart. If you’re on the fence about going, either as a vendor or customer, I can’t recommend it enough.
To the HWA Regarding Recent Events
I do not know who Thomas F. Monteleone is and I intend to keep it that way.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Stargazers price drop!
Through this weekend, Stargazers, along with the second and third My Dark Library titles, is on sale for $1.99 for the Kindle version. If you have been interested or on the fence, now is the perfect time to take the plunge for cheap! The novella can be purchased here.
Human Monsters Available for pre-order
Dark Matter Presents: Human Monsters is available for pre-order! This year has been a whirlwind for me, beginning with my first pro-sale for Cemetery Gates’ Picnic in the Graveyard. Human Monsters was my next target. I submitted my story the minute window opened and got the good news pretty soon after. I believe it was mentioned on Twitter there were over 1000 submissions, with 25 selected. I am definitely in exclusive company for this one, with several bestselling authors in the TOC. Had I only landed The Bystander in this anthology I would have considered the year a success. The opportunity to submit Stargazers came soon after, and as of today it has 163 ratings with a 4.45 average on Goodreads. One question I received from those who read Stargazers is…what happens next? For a couple of months I did not have an answer. I thought the story was told. Then, my daughter asked a question that got my wheels turning. It’s early days, but I am about 6000 words into answering that question. The working title is “Skylights: A Stargazers Story.”
I’m in a listicle!
Stargazers has been out in the wild for a month-and-a-half now. The feedback has been wonderful and so very validating. As of this writing, it has almost 100 ratings on Goodreads and a 4.4+ average. To add to the coolness, Stargazers is included in this listicle! https://the-line-up.com/golden-age-of-horror-novellas
Yesterday, I had the first-in-a-lifetime experience of doing a live podcast/reading/Q & A/book signing at Lark and Owl Booksellers in Georgetown, just north of Austin. I was joined by two of my favorite writing/horror community ladies, V. Castro and Agatha Andrews of the She Wore Black podcast. It’s a day I will not soon forget, the first of many, I hope.
Review copies are out in the wild and I hope the reviews are soon to follow! I can’t wait for you to meet these characters and follow their journey through a chaotic, heartbreaking landscape. This is my first novella, and although I could have grown this universe, followed the characters past the final scene (which I am quite proud of), I think it’s a satisfying experience in its current form. I don’t have my website set up for purchasing yet, and the book won’t be available on the Cemetery Gates Media site until July. However, I do have signed author copies available $15 shipped. Email me at LesPHernandez@gmail.com if interested. Thanks to V. Castro and Gabino Iglesias for their blurbs. It’s still shocking to know these authors I admire so much have read my writing…and had wonderful things to say about it.
Lots of good news this year, so I wanted to share a bit about each of the upcoming releases.
May 3 – Picnic in the Graveyard (Cemetery Gates Media) – an anthology of cemetery-themed horror stories featuring my story “Cemetery Joe.”
June 6 – If I Die Before I Wake : Tales of Savagery and Slaughter (Sinister Smile Press) – an anthology of brutal horror featuring my story “Family Annihilator.”
June 6 – Dreadful: Tales of the Dead and Dying (re-release with Velox Books) My first collection edited and featuring a new story “Seconds.”
June (Night Worms box) – Stargazers (Cemetery Gates Media/My Dark Library) – a novella published as part of Sadie Hartmann’s “My Dark Library” initiative. Full release in July!
September 5 – Institutionalized (Sinister Smile Press) – an anthology of the deranged featuring my story “Hesitation Cuts.” A few big names in this one, including Richard Chizmar and Ronald Kelly.
October (TBD) – Dark Matter Magazine’s Human Monsters issue (Dark Matter Ink) – an anthology of human monsters featuring my story “The Bystander.” Lots of big names in this one and will also be included in the October Night Worms box!
Each of these releases is a thrill in its own way. The publishers are wonderful and the writers alongside me are top notch. I am surprised but delighted to be in their company.
Hot Take! Writing with your Voice!
I don’t know if I’ve “made it” as a writer, however you define that term. Though I have made strides getting accepted into anthologies in the past 1-2 years, and I want to share what I learned in the hopes it might be helpful.
I have been considered a good writer since I was young, around eleven years old or so. This was mostly due to an above average vocabulary and a sprinkling of imagination. I held onto this idea of good writing through my youth and early adulthood. Good writing meant I had a thesaurus in my lap, channeling Henry Miller into increasingly obscure stream of consciousness diatribes, the more syllables the better, as if my overall goal was to alienate the reader. The story was a platform to advertise my intelligence…and that is why I did not sell a story until my mid-thirties.
I had some success with The NoSleep Podcast and a few homegrown anthologies, using feedback to hone my craft, and reading reading reading. This is what changed for me, and this is what I hope to share with you. Voice matters so much more than I knew. I landed a story with Sinister Smile Press last year titled “From the Red Dirt.” It was an atypical zombie story told through the eyes of a young man during the Great Depression. I leaned into his imagined experience. A thirteen-year-old, uneducated boy in rural Texas would not have a thesaurus handy while describing the way his recently resurrected dead grandfather smelled, how the flies went into his nose dry and came out wet. Of the positive reviews I have read for this story, the voice is often highlighted.
My third story with Sinister Smile, titled “Hesitation Cuts,” is told through the eyes of an elderly man in mental decline. I wanted the story to feel uncomfortably claustrophobic, the reader trapped in the head space of a person unaware of their imperfect perception of the world. I repeated certain ideas, never letting the reader stray from this worldview. Whether people love it or hate it, they won’t forget it.
I landed two dream submissions this year, and in both stories I really just went for it. No more thesaurus. No second-guessing. I let my humor shine in both, something I have been reluctant to do in most horror stories I have written. I conjured awful people and let them run wild on the page. I was so positive I went too far with my Cemetery Gates submission I wrote another story for them because I really, really, really wanted to land that call. To my surprise and delight, they loved my awful character.
To me, it is the difference between Heath Ledger’s Joker and Jared Leto’s Joker. They’re both home run swings, but one landed while the other was either a foul ball or a long single depending on your perspective. You won’t know home run or foul until you swing. Heath felt like the Joker. Jared felt like an actor attempting to convince the audience Heath Ledger’s Joker never existed.
Voice is why I fell in love with Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. It’s not just character dialogue, it’s how they move through the space the author creates, what she chooses to show us and how. In “Hesitation Cuts” I liken my elderly couple’s physical encounters to “enemy ships without munitions.” I forget the full metaphor, but I was likely inspired by Flynn’s description of her married couple sliding past each other like fish in the tight spaces of their home.
Your voice will not resonate with everyone. There are negative reviews of Ray Bradbury’s (Ray Bradbury!) Something Wicked…lamenting his prose. (Blasphemy!) It will resonate, though. The closer your writing voice is to your actual voice the more authentic the work will be. When you’re writing, periodically ask yourself if you are Val Kilmer’s Doc Holliday or whoever played Doc Holliday in the Kevin Costner version.
As for me, well, I’m your huckleberry.
Picnic in the Graveyard
2022 kicked off with a plethora of intriguing submission calls. I would get to work on a story and, within a day or two, another submission call would slap me in the face. I submitted a story to Cemetery Gates Media’s Picnic in the Graveyard anthology project earlier this month. A few writer friends shared their success in landing stories relatively soon after it was announced. Days passed after my submission and I began to question if my story was too…unrestrained. The title alone was an eyebrow-raiser. Another story idea descended from the ether, a more traditional cemetery tale, and I wrote that one in a couple of sittings. Within hours, I think, of emailing Cemetery Gates the second story and halfway apologizing for the first I received an acceptance email of that eyebrow-raiser of a story. Cemetery Joe, its reformed title, will be included in Picnic in the Graveyard among a growing list of outstanding authors. Publishing details to come, but this is my first story to pay professional rates!!
The second story, Under no Circumstances, will find a home eventually. I am equally proud of both, but I think those who know me for emotionally-tinged horror will be in for a surprise with Cemetery Joe.
Dark Matter Magazine also has a call out for Human Monsters. This call is headed by the lovely ladies at Night Worms and will be featured in a Night Worms subscription box later this year. I have a story titled The Bystander, which has some of the roughest material I’ve ever written, ready to submit when the call opens on 15 Feb. I have been a Night Worms fan for many months, and I loved the Dark Matter Magazine from the October (I think) box. Cemetery Gates have also partnered with Sadie from Night Worms for a novella call. I am chipping away at a novella titled Stargazers for this one, which will likely shape up to be an emotionally draining horror odyssey quite a bit different from Cemetery Joe and The Bystander.
Still to come this year, more NoSleep, Institutionalized from Sinister Smile Press, and I am sure much more.
Finally, I’ve pre-ordered two books this month, Spontaneous Human Combustion by Richard Thomas, and the anthology A Woman Built by Man featuring a couple writer friends. I will have to make time to write as I want to dig into both of these as soon as they arrive.