The first story I ever published, “Different Angels,” has been reprinted over at Nightmare Magazine. I wrote this way back in the halcyon days of the late 1990s–a different world, that was–and it was published by The Third Alternative, the precursor to Black Static, in 1999. I’ve written elsewhere about what TTA Press meant and means to me and how important that first sale was–the first story I sent to Andy Cox!–so I won’t belabor that point here, but I did want to talk a little bit about the story’s origin.
Back in the 1990s, I was still very much finding my voice as a writer. And wow, I could not sell a story. I couldn’t even give a story away–believe me, I tried. Back then, nobody wanted the kind of stories I was writing, or didn’t want them from me, at any rate.
The stories we write are always stories that come from where we are in that particular time and place, and “Different Angels” is an angry story I could have only written in my twenties. I was still angry at the rural South where I’d grown up, and hadn’t yet figured out how to reconcile the things I hated about it–ignorance and bigotry and small-mindedness and religious fundamentalism–with who I was–unmistakably a product of that rural South, however much I wanted to deny it. So I wrote a story that twisted a lot of the values I was kicking against–religion, the family. I think I was also mainlining a lot of writers like Flannery O’Connor and Harry Crews around that time.
I used to hear a lot of writers say that nothing changes after you publish your first story, but I found that wasn’t true at all. I had wanted to be a writer ever since I could hold a pen, and I’d been seriously submitting stories for four years with no success. To finally get an acceptance, and to a magazine I admired so much, was a huge deal to me. I felt like a real writer at last–even if nobody in America had ever heard of the magazine or TTA Press back in those days and just looked at me blankly when I mentioned it. Plus, it plugged me into a community of TTA readers and writers, some of whom I’m real-life friends with today.
Of course, if you like the story, you can check out other stories by me that are available free online. “Different Angels” is also reprinted in my first collection, The Moon Will Look Strange, which is available at all the Amazons (even though I only linked to two) in Kindle or paperback. And you can pick up my second collection from Swan River Press, You’ll Know When You Get There.