Of the many neat writer things I always assumed would only happen to other people - presumably people who either were or were closely akin to Stephen King - getting a story commissioned was always pretty high on the list. I mean, it's hard enough trying to sell one at the best of times, so the idea that someone would just come straight to me and cut all the pain and trauma out of the process was a bit like the idea of a dayjob where my boss would slap me on the back one day and say, "Hey, Dave, why don't you just stop wasting your time here and we'll just pay you for sucking up air?" And, you know, it not just be a sarcastic way of firing me.
So you can imagine how I was coloured the exact colour of surprised when writer / editor-to-be Eric Guignard dropped me a very polite e-mail to say that he'd enjoyed Stockholm Syndrome in the Living Dead anthology, and was there any chance that I might be able to put something together for his forthcoming collection Dark Tales of Lost Civilisations? Not only a comission, but a polite and complimentary comission to an anthology with the kind of title that would make my fingers get itchy just thinking about it! I mean, dark Tales? Lost civilisations? That's got to mean Lovecraftian goings-on in abandoned, antedeluvian burgs, exactly the kind of stuff I write about with no incentive whatsoever. I doesn't take much imagination to guess what my answer was.
I said no.
Well, I kind of did. Actually, what I said was, "I'm completely snowed under with writing my new novel and a kerzillion other things and sadly the hopes of me being able to write a new story in time are roughly equivalent to the hopes of hell getting its own all-star ice hockey team. But I do have this very nice (though already slightly published) story that I think would be a heck of good fit. It's called The Gate in the Jungle and it's been read by precisely seven people, including the editor and my mum. How's about I polish that up?"
A relatively logical solution, I hope you'll agree. Only problem was, Eric was in the midst of trying to find a publisher for his burgeoning anthology, and one of the selling points was that it was a collection of all-new fiction. However, he did really like Gate. How much polishing was I talking about exactly, he asked? Could it be sufficient polishing that the end result might reasonably be considered a fresh story? Were we looking at the kind of polish that could warrant a new title here?
I thought it over. And that time, I said yes.
The end result is The Door Beyond the Lake. Is it a polish? A rewrite? A new story? I'm hopeful it's a bit of all of those. I know I put a lot of man-hours into it, and was more pleased than I'd hoped I could be with the results - something kind of like a story I wrote many years ago, except far better and much creepier and - well, new. Maybe more importantly, Eric feels the same, meaning that The Door Beyond the Lake is now forthcoming in Dark Tales of Lost Civilisations. And while I was labouring away on my "reimagining", Eric was busy finding a publisher, in the shape of Dark Moon Books. Who are planning to premier it at next year's Horrorcon. So that worked out pretty well, all told.
And then, a couple of days later, I got my second ever commission. But it's probably a little too early to talk about that one.