After selling my first story to a professional anthology, I said to myself, “Man, this being-a-writer thing isn’t so tough!”
I was wrong. Oh, how I was wrong!
Not only did I have a hard time finding inspiration in the ensuing months, I found it even harder to sell the few stories I did write. I was frustrated. Having learned a few things about the biz now I see what a baby I was being. But in that moment, I was sure my first fiction sale had been a fluke and that I would never publish another word.
During this time I wrote a short story that I liked—that I still like—about a strange creature who encounters a young girl held captive in a cellar. It was called “Reaching for the Light.” And the title expressed exactly how I felt.
It didn’t sell.
But, for some reason, I couldn’t shake the image of the girl in the cellar. I wanted to do something different with this cliché and thought there was a deeper story to be told than the ones I’d read or seen in movies.
Sometime later I started writing a story aimed at Robert Essig’s Through the Eyes of the Undead II. And I did something that I was pretty sure hadn’t been done before; I made the girl in the cellar a zombie.
The story was called “Half Life” originally and, for the most part, it's the finale of what would later become Balance.
And, damn, I was proud of that story.
In fact, I loved it!
So I sent it off to every friend I could think of who might want to read it. And many of them did.
It got a flurry of great responses, but with one consistent bit of criticism.
It needed to be longer. Everyone wanted to know what The Blast was. And everyone wanted to know more about the human relationships in the tale.
I was just glad they liked the story, so I sent it off to Robert. And he liked it, too. It looked like my short story might be accepted and my dry spell would come to an end.
But in the weeks that followed, the feedback I had received from trusted friends rang through my head.
So I pulled up the story. Reread it a dozen times.
They’d all been right.
So I expanded “Half Life” into a novella called The Blast, pulled my story from Robert’s short-list, worried I’d lost my mind, and sent the new draft to Eric Shapiro, the most trusted of my readers and the person who’d given “Half Life” the biggest thumbs up. Eric was surely going to love this new, expanded version of a story he’d praised. I was on my way to becoming the master of the macabre... Delusions bloomed eternal on that day, my friends.
A few days later, I opened an email from Eric. I was excited and couldn’t wait to hear how great I was.
I read his email and my jaw dropped.
He didn’t think The Blast was so hot. He didn’t hate it, but he didn’t think it would resonate with readers or, for that matter, be published at all.
Though surprised, I made one of the best moves of my life. And writers, whether you’re just starting out or have been doing this for decades, this is what we all need to do in these situations. Every time!
I asked him what was wrong with it. I asked him for details. I asked for help.
And he gave me what I asked for. And then his wonderful wife, Rhoda, read an improved version of the story and she gave me even more feedback.
So I fixed the story. And then I fixed it some more. Then…Well, you get the idea. I just kept fixing it until everyone—and by everyone I mean Eric and Rhoda (two of the most wonderful people on the planet)—loved it!
Then Eric gave me one last piece of advice. He told me The Blast sucked as a title. I asked him how bad it sucked, and he told me it sucked big. Really big!
I love my honest friends. If you’re one of those friends who tells me what I want to hear, stop now! Unless I look really needy at the moment, if you want me to love you more, tell me what you really think.
I came up with Balance. And the moment that title entered my mind, I knew I had it. Why hadn’t I thought of it sooner? I now can’t imagine this story ever being called anything else, but when you’re really close to something, it’s easy to be blind.
Eric and Rhoda agreed with the title.
And so Balance was born.
Special thanks go to Eric Shapiro and Rhoda Jordan. They’re busy people—making movies, writing books, building a family—and they certainly didn’t have to take time out to help me. But they did. And I’m forever in their debt.
I learned a lot working with them. I learned to give a little more.
I sold Balance to an epublisher in early 2011. The eBook is still with them, but they didn't buy print rights. In early 2012 the paperback edition was released with Evil Jester Press. Though the few people who have read this novella have given it its share of praise, the book has never found a wide audience. It is, in fact, my worst selling title. Though I'm not known as one who writes a lot of zombie fiction, I found that surprising for a long time.
Then I took a look at the cover. Really looked at it. Hard.
And I remembered what Eric told me about my original title.
That title sucked, and so did the cover on the paperback edition of Balance.
So Balance just got a facelift. At least the paperback did. Much as I'd like this cover to be on the eBook (I do love it), I have no control over that.
One more thing: The paperback contains an introduction by Eric Shapiro and "Reaching for the Light" is included as a bonus story. You won't find these things in the eBook.
You can purchase the paperback of Balance at Amazon.com for only $8.95 here.
Praise for Balance
"Balance is a grim and melancholy zombie story. Peter Giglio brings his A-game to this disturbing tale." - Jonathan Maberry, author of Dead of Night and Dust & Decay
"A harrowing new perspective on the apocalypse. Giglio goes for the heart as well as the jugular." - David Dunwoody, author of Empire and The Harvest Cycle