The Road to Deadsville: A guest post by Dale Elster and T.D. Trask

Earlier this week I posted my review of Dale Elster and T.D. Trask’s collaborative horror anthology DEADSVILLE. Today, to kick off October–my favorite month of the year–Dale and Terry have graciously agreed to provide us with some insights into the long process of making their book a reality. As you will see, it takes a village to build a town like Rock Creek, New York, otherwise known as Deadsville.

The Road to Deadsville: Part I – by Dale Elster

deadsvilleSpring, 2012, is the earliest file on my computer that bears the title of the book.

That file was emailed to me from my eventual collaborator on the anthology, T.D. Trask. It was his concept, his original six stories – along with an open invitation to add my own stories alongside them – with the goal of publishing a collection to call our own.

“Tree Branches in the Water” was the first story I read after opening the email, and right away I loved the atmosphere of the piece. I had been tooling around with a 1,000 word flash story, and after taking another pass at it, the story felt like it would be a good fit alongside Terry’s “Tree Branches” piece.

At that point, it was game on! The two of us, during the course of many phone conversations over the next several weeks, hammered out a “mission statement” of sorts by discussing story ideas we’d come up with that we felt would complement one another.

Previous stories of mine had appeared in a few small-press anthologies, and a natural, purely accidental, networking had taken place. I was making friends across the writing spectrum – artists, fellow authors, editors. Deadsville was beginning to take shape in my mind, but like that famous Beatles song, I knew I was going to need a little help from my friends.

Actually, a lot of help from my friends!

Terry and I had already decided that we wanted to self-publish in order to ensure the quality of the finished piece. We’d seen far too many collections from decent writers get published as slapped-together eBooks with terrible covers and little publisher support or marketing.

We wanted Deadsville to be a book that would compete with the best anthologies on the market. A heavy lift, to be sure. We had little money, and no editor attached to our project.

J.W. (Wade) Zulauf, one of the editors of a book my work appeared in, called, “Daylight Dims, Volume 2” had heard about Deadsville and wanted to take a look at my stories. We had become friends, but friendship only goes so far. Terry and I had no budget for an editor (HUGE mistake, but more on that later) so I requested that Wade limit his services to beta-reader of my own material. Somehow beta reading became impromptu, weeks-long editing sessions that neither of us could have ever predicted. Wade is a terrific editor with a fantastic sense of story. His input and advice saved the book, period. He’s also a damn good author in his own right. Check out his work here:

I became familiar with artist Gary McCluskey’s work when an editor pal of mine hired him to draw the cover for a zombie anthology I was in, “So Long, and Thanks for all the Brains.” I had a vision in my head of what the Deadsville cover might look like, and right away I knew Gary was the perfect choice to draw our cover. When I sent him my extremely crude renderings on MS Publisher, he got back to me with ideas of his own that resulted in the cover you see now. He did a remarkable job, and he really knows how to create a great cover!

Here’s proof:

Lastly, as our stories were finishing up, I knew I needed to find someone who could make the manuscript look like a book. I am lucky in that I have not only an independent bookstore in my town, but a guy “on the inside” there that is great at formatting and interior design. The bookstore was in the early stages of offering publishing services for independent authors (Downtown Books Publishing) and I had a conversation with Ryan and John, the owners. Ryan formatted Deadsville for both print and eBook, uploaded it to Amazon, and added the title design and author credits to the cover and spine. Both John and Ryan greatly helped market the book locally, booked signing events for us at other indie stores, and were able to easily fit top-quality services within budget. I highly recommend using them for your independent publishing needs. Check them out here:

Making friends, networking, is what helped Terry and I achieve our goals for “Deadsville.” Genuinely building a community of like-minded artists, not friending or following people with the sole intention of simply using them to direct traffic to your work. Too much of that goes on. The people we have met online and in person are people we care about, and who care about us and our work.

Also, unless you coincidentally marry an editor like Terry did, hire an editor and pay that person actual money. Writers ALWAYS need editors! We got lucky, and Wade is a friend. Perhaps he will edit your book. I highly recommend him. But he ain’t workin’ for free, nor should he.

Working together, we built Deadsville. We did it largely through the generosity of the relationships we have forged. Those connections built Deadsville, as well as the road leading into town.

We hope you’ll follow that road and drop by our little community. We hope you’ll find it to be a quality place. Mostly, we hope our stories will freak you the hell out!

Dale Elster


The Road to Deadsville: Part II – by TD Trask

deadsville-cover-backWhere the hell is Rock Creek, NY?

When I came up with the idea for the small town of Rock Creek, I was a much younger person. I mean, I was literally a child. Rock Creek is fashioned from my old home town, a small village near Oneonta, NY. As a kid growing up, I had personally experienced several weird events in that town, so it was natural that when I eventually began writing, I would write about something I knew about.

To me, every place – real or imagined – has its own feel and its own stories, and so it was with my home town. I grew up fascinated by the weird, scary, and the horrific. So yes, even though the town of Rock Creek is fictional, it is a very real place to me.

I had a handful of stories I had written over the past few years, and I thought that if I could scratch together a few more, it would make for a great short story anthology. I approached Dale, who I’ve known pretty much my entire life, because I knew the quality of his writing, as well as his passion for it. I gave him a rough idea for the book; it should be centered in a small town that seems to be a hub for the paranormal and the horrific.

He hit the ground running, and the book eventually came to be.

I totally agree with Dale. Editors are a MUST! Whereas he had his fantastic editor J.W. Zulauf, I had my own terrific editor, my wife. Dena. She had spent several years working for several Upstate NY newspapers, writing and editing everything under the sun. When I asked her to edit my stories, she said, “You sure? We disagree on so much!”

I knew I needed a tough editor, so I pressed her to do it and she finally relented. Over the years we argued about each and every story, each idea, each plot twist, everything, even punctuation and grammar.

And almost every time, she was right. So in essence, the book would never have been without the hard work of my own editor, Dena Trask.

Dale, his friends and his network were indispensable, and I humbly thank every single person involved in the production of Deadsville for their hard work, time, and huge talents. Without all of you, the book wouldn’t be the awesome thing that’s now out there. It took a village… a very creepy village!

Finally, I truly hope that you read and enjoy all the chills and creeped-out feelings that we offer you. Then get ready for more. Rock Creek will be back in a new novel which is now being edited, a book titled The Callers. Stay tuned.

TD Trask

You can purchase DEADSVILLE from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

You can also follow Terry on Twitter at @tdtrask and Dale can be found at @DaleElster


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