My writing partner, Paul Cooley, did a really cool thing about a year ago. With the help of fellow hybrid author Jake Bible, he sold a book on the pitch. That means he came up with a story idea, wrote a short blurb about that story, sent it off to a publisher, and the publisher bought it based on that pitch alone. How cool is that?
But once the book was sold, then the fun began and he had to write this book. He typically writes character driven stuff where we don’t know if we’re dealing with our own inner daemons or real daemons. He infuses his prose with social commentary and dwells on our darker nature. This was different. It was to be a classic horror tale in that it’s a creature no one has seen or dealt with before and the humans are trapped and without communication. Think of Relic or The Thing.
First, here’s the pitch:
“Under 30,000 feet of water, the exploration rig Aurora has discovered an oil field larger than Saudi Arabia, with oil so sweet and pure, nations would go to war for the rights to it. But as the team starts drilling exploration well after exploration well in their race to claim the sweet crude, their Autonomous Underwater Vehicles begin to short out, drill bits break and snap, and a deep rumbling beneath the ocean floor shakes them all to their core. Something has been living in the oil and it’s about to give birth to the greatest threat humanity has ever seen.
“The Black” is a techno/horror-thriller that puts the horror and action of movies such as Leviathan and The Thing right into readers’ hands. Ocean exploration will never be the same.”
You would think that when a writer (or any creative person) tries something new they might struggle or have difficulty. And, I’m sure that happens pretty frequently. But the flip side is that when a creative person tries something new, they don’t have any preconceived ideas about how to do that thing. All of their bad habits are wrapped up in doing the old thing so they are free to experiment. Free to just do. I had the joy of watching that happen here. He spent some time researching deep oil drilling, life aboard a platform oil rig, the science of petrochemicals, deep water ocean life, bacteria, and anything else that came to mind regarding this book. Once he started to write, this book flew out of his sick and twisted brain.
It was sold to Severed Press, a small press headquartered in Tasmania. It was published on September 15, 2014. The original pitch was accepted just 6 months earlier. Small doesn’t just mean that a press is small in terms of their assets or staff size, it also means they aren’t bloated. They are nimble and agile and able to do things in days that takes larger publishers months or even years to accomplish.
By October 6, 2014 The Black had hit #1 on Amazon’s Hot New Release list in the kindle store. By October 19th, it had landed on the Amazon Best Selling Horror chart at #99. And by January 16, 2015 it was climbing three charts. Finally, on January 17, 2015 The Black was sitting at #1 in the Amazon Horror Chart, the Amazon Kindle Horror Chart, and Amazon Sea Stories with an overall Kindle ranking of #63 in the paid Kindle store. Paul was listed as the third most popular horror writer on the Amazon Author charts. Now, fame and rankings are fleeting and after The Black had its turn at the top of the pile, it slowly slid back down but has stayed in the general range of 12,000-30,000 depending on the whim of the market. But to have hit these milestones is no small feat particularly when you realize there are over 5 million books in the kindle store. And yes, I’m just a little bit proud of his achievements.
The best part of this whole saga is that The Black was intended to be a one-off, a stand alone book. But a funny thing happened on the way to the oil rig… While writing The Black, Paul wrote about how they drilled a test barrel and flew it to Houston. Which is pretty much what they do. The only problem was if the barrel went to Houston, so did the Black. Um… He had a lot of, “Oh, shit!” moments when writing this first book, but that was one of my favorites. Immediately, he had plans for book 2. So while The Black was climbing the charts, Paul went to work on book 2 which ended up being titled The Black: Arrival. That book chronicles what happens in the lab in Houston. It was released 9 days ago and is starting its journey on the Amazon charts.
Early on in that book, one of the scientists accidentally comes in contact with The Black and end up going to the hospital. Essentially, she is this volumes version of the test barrel. Plans are already underway for book three and book 4 (what is slated to be the conclusion but with Paul, who knows?).
Some of the things I love about these books are, first of all, the monster. It’s creepy and weird and different. It also seems to be smarter than we initially think. Second, I love the characters he’s creating to interact (and hopefully defeat) said monster. But my absolute favorite thing about these books is the way Paul slowly ratchets up the tension so that you start with a general feeling of dread and by the time all hell breaks loose the slightest sound makes you jump out of your skin. At that point, it’s balls to the walls action. His storytelling reminds me of a great old fashioned wooden rollercoaster. I can almost hear that click, clack, click, clack when I’m reading…