Notes on How I Became a Writer and Publisher

Notes on How I Became a Writer and Publisher

by Emmanuel Paige

I was born on February 18, 1970 in Aberdeen, Washington and I am a writer of fiction and non-fiction. I spent my formative years in a Sawyeresque fashion, fishing and catching frogs on the muddy banks of the Hoquiam river, skateboarding in the Sunset Memorial Park cemetery because the pavement there was well maintained, and listening to scary stories told around the campfire at night. I discovered early on that storytelling was an art form I found irresistible and intriguing. The desire to write fiction started back in 1985 after an English composition teacher told me anyone can write stories, if they so desire, and it has been a continuous writing episode that has spanned over thirty years.

I lived in Alaska for ten years in my twenties, then Indiana for ten years in my thirties, and now I reside in Olympia, Washington. I am currently attending SNHU where I am earning a Bachelor of Arts in English with a focus creative writing and fiction. I have worked many labor jobs such as dish washing, painting houses, tool tech and mechanic, and writing as a profession. Up until now in 2021, I have been writing stories and trying to scare my readers in the horror genre, all while learning how to write and stay committed to the craft. Is it working? I don’t know.

I now own my own publishing company known as Stark Raven Press. I’ve been publishing off and on for over ten years and am picking up momentum. I got extremely inspired recently to be a publisher (again), and I purchased a block of one thousand ISBNs to publish books—including my own. I know it is considered a faux pas to publish one’s own books, but, after researching a number of famous authors, such as Virginia Woolf (Heitman) and Mark Twain (Zacks), who had their own publishing companies, I decided it was a worthwhile endeavor. It gave me hope. I thought: if they can do it, I can do it. So, I started my own publishing company and am attempting to make it a success.

My first bona fide publishing experience (although it was still not considered a pro market) was in an online journal, Aphelion – The Webzine of Science Fiction and Fantasy in 2000 with a story, “The Old Man and the Dancing Bees,” which is still there today. I was published in a few other e-zines, but they are all defunct and long gone. I also published my own work in a magazine, Macabre Cadaver, which I created in 2008 which made it into Wikipedia. I also was selected as finalist to publish a poem in a college literary journal in 2010 when I earned my Associate Degree at Ivy Tech in Bloomington, Indiana. One thing is certain: time is of the essence, now, and I will have to publish at least 20 books a year for 20 years if I intend to use all of my ISBNs in this lifetime. I am going to give it the old college try, that is a certainty, and I am up to the challenge.

I have learned a lot over the years about writing and fiction. Stories come in all shapes and sizes, long, short, micro, flash, or what have you, and the themes and plots are just as varied. All stories that are remembered by the readers long after they have parted ways with the books or magazines, or now on the computer display terminal, have one thing in common: they are of a high quality and a nature that strikes a resounding chord within the reader and creates an illusion of reality within the reader’s mind and stays there as a memory, as a world where the reader might like to return for another visit to see how the people are faring in the land of make-believe. Literary or just plain entertaining, all stories that merit any consideration whatsoever must keep the reader interested and not offend their sensibilities; these are the stories that one might find published by the multitudes of professional writers in magazines and anthologies—and that is not to say that just because a writer is famous that their writing is good.

The stories I write, it is hoped by now, are of a higher quality which attempted to delve into the “human condition,” but, sadly I fear they are not; many of my stories span almost three decades of my life; they suffer from the fact that I was in my youth and striving to find my voice and style—not to say that I have found it yet, just that I was farther from it then than I am now. Early on in my youth, I was possessed with a naïve belief that I could learn the craft of writing and become a great writer; although, simultaneously, I was learning about the cold hard facts of life, and being a famous author was a pipe dream of grand proportions. In the beginning I wanted to be just like Stephen King, and I worked hard at it, but only imitated, and never duplicated his quantity or quality. It was not an easy task, writing or living. I was not very prolific during those years, but I did have the desire to compose something special, even if my motives were more than a little self-centered. I wanted to be the next great writer, entertainer, musician, artist, performer, and so on, and I had the reckless drive of a maniacally obsessed researcher and the unbridled hopes and dreams that only a teenage wannabe can have; but I was so busy trying to suffer for my art that I was consumed by the darker side of my creative nature and fell prey to sin and vice, and as a result I wound up spinning my wheels and accomplishing nothing of any value or significance for decades, up until the turn of the century, in 2000, when I got my first acceptance from to a bona fide online webzine, Aphelion – The Webzine of Science Fiction and Fantasy. I was ecstatic when I saw my story on their website.

Back around 1990, I wrote several of the stories that appear in a collection title, The Black Hound and Other Stories, but I unknowingly followed the example of Robert Louis Stephenson, who it is rumored that, at the behest of his wife, burned the manuscript to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde because he had all appearance of a madman after composing the draft at white heat in about three days. In a rage and act of nihilism (I did not know what that word meant back then) I wound up burning several of my manuscripts. I wanted to give up because I thought it was all in vain. Who would want to read my trashy stories? I was depressed and full of youthful pride and  around 1993 I decided that I was a terrible writer and that it was all a pipedream—realizing that I was much too ignorant and stupid to ever compose anything of any value—it occurred to me that I should assume my rightful place in the labor work force and leave the writing of great stories to the elite and rich aristocrats whom were born for such things—and so I dumped kerosene on all of the pages contained in a three ring binder, some backed up floppy diskettes, and anything and everything in my possession that had to do with writing (I also smashed a guitar that my mother gave me, which is another story in and of itself, but I won’t go into that here), and I lit them all on fire and watched it burn in an artistic fit of passion and rage that made me feel both eccentric and stupid. Eventually, I rewrote many of those stories from memory, out of a deep-seated feeling of nostalgia, and because in recreating them I felt like I was setting a wrong to right, that somehow it would balance my karma. The stories were not very good the first time I wrote them, and probably are not much better after the complete rewrites, but I published them nonetheless, because they were the oldest complete stories I had ever written, and by gosh, I was proud of them. They are like my children, all of them, and I love them dearly.

Benjamin Franklin mused that for want of a nail the kingdom was lost—the nail fell out of the horseshoe and the horse was lost, along with the rider, the battle, the castle, the king, etc. . .  . and all for the want of a horseshoe nail. Well, I think that it is the same with a story; for want of a reader or listener, the story is lost. If there is no one to hear a story, or anyone who cares to listen, then the story has no purpose and is, for all practical purposes, lost. In my stories (I have published over 63 stories to date) the reader is king, and I, the author, am the jester (a very big fool, if you will), and it is for my limited audience that these stories have been written, and hopefully I haven’t let the shoe-nails get too loose, leading to a catastrophe where the whole shooting match crumbles to the ground. I would be saddened if I failed as a storyteller and my readers set my books aside feeling cheated. Perish the thought. I would never want to be in that position, love them or hate them, at least I hope a few souls read them. Although my stories are amateur and full of clichés, they do have a simple architecture and purpose: to entertain. They are crude and clunky, the majority of them, and hopefully my readers won’t get too many splinters from the rough-cut lumber I used to construct them. I always try to keep in mind that these stories span well over thirty years of my life, and in the early years I had a great desire to write something good, however I hadn’t experienced enough of life yet and my worldly concerns were still quite adolescent—so it is reflected in most of these stories. To date I have published two collections, The Black Hound and Other Stories and In Wrath and Fire: 30 Dark Tales, as well as a novel, Death Rides Darkly. I am currently hard at work on new material and have so many ideas I fear I may not have enough time or energy to get them all down on paper. It will be a valiant effort, nonetheless.

I want to thank you, dear reader, for joining me here in my world and I hope that I don’t deceive you or let you down. I have crafted these stories to achieve an effect, and to entertain you, and I hope that you feel that you get every penny’s worth and that these stories stick with you long after you close the covers to this book. I don’t expect that everyone will enjoy these stories in these volumes because some of them were written when I knew nothing of the craft of writing—once again I’m not claiming that I do now—and my ideals were very different when I was a younger man. I still think that a ghost story is the most sublime of stories, and I will continue to write tales of the supernatural and grotesque as long as I am able, but hopefully I can deal with them in a more delicate and artistic light, without all of the gruesome clattering of chains and spatters of blood described with too many adverbs and adjectives. I hope that at least a few readers find at least a few of these stories entertaining and obtain some delight or other visceral reaction, even if you have to vomit because the stories are so poorly written and atrocious. At least that is a reaction. These stories do not aspire to greatness; they just exist for the simple purpose of scaring the living daylights out of someone.

Fortunately, I have a few stories to show for those wacky, sometimes happy, sometimes sad and wonderfully carefree and sordid times. Here they are for you to read. Hopefully you will find something here that you like. These stories are of a darker nature—I was very influenced by the horror genre and it effected my writing style immensely, and still does, although nowadays I am more concerned with the subtle nuances of character and gritty atmosphere and setting, more so than the ultimate shock value of a grizzly horror story—and they are my juvenile attempts at creating something that hoped to find a home in the shadows of the reader’s mind and in the strange neighborhoods where other writer’s fantastic imaginings have dwelt for centuries.

For better or worse, here they are in all their clunky glory. Some of them are awkward, and some of them are a little more polished than others, but they all have the same purpose: hopefully to scare you, or make you happy, sad, or angry, or just move you, right or wrong, or just entertain you for a little while, and hopefully stick with you and bring something to light that may not have been there before. I take no responsibility for the things that lurk around in these dimly lit areas of the imagination. Tread lightly through these dimly lit streets and secluded back roads. Traveling here is not for the faint of heart.

Emmanuel Paige
Olympia, Washington
February 7, 2021

Works Cited

Zacks, Richard. “How Mark Twain Lost a Fortune in 19th-Century Start-Up Fails”. Time. 2021. https://time.com/4297572/mark-twain-bad-business/

Heitman, Danny. “Virginia Woolf Was More Than Just a Woman’s Writer”. National Endowment for he Humanities. 2021. https://www.neh.gov/humanities/2015/mayjune/feature/virginia-woolf-was-more-just-womens-writer

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