Confession time: I’m not a short-story reader. Give me an epic series with a lowly protagonist who evolves into the most powerful being in the universe over the course of 10 x 500+ page books, and that’s the last you’ll see of me for a year. To really get into a novel, I need to warm up to it, and for a new series with new characters, that can be half to three-quarters of the way through the first book—sometimes halfway into the second (hello, Way of Kings). The investment makes me care about the characters and the world, to the point where, at the end of the series, I feel like I’m saying sad farewell to my best friends.
So you can understand my reluctance to pick up an anthology. In fact, the only anthology I’d read before Corporate Catharsis was a collection of science fiction short stories by Tom Jolly, whom I’d met at a funeral service for a mutual friend of ours. His imagination captured and inspired me. And so, when Paper Angel Press announced they were accepting submissions for a Corporate Catharsis Anthology, I thought I’d try my hand at writing my first-ever short story.
Creating “Once Upon a Nightwalker”
I needed a story idea. And characters. And a setting. The plot needed to be interesting. The characters needed history, depth, and to evolve. It also had to conform to a corporate theme. There needed to be a beginning, a middle, and an end. And I had to do it all in ten thousand words or less.
I didn’t even know where to start.
Or did I? I had just finished writing the last book of The Z-Tech Chronicles, an entire world full of unique characters and history. Using that universe as a base made so much sense it almost felt like cheating. Almost.
In one of my previous jobs, despite (or because of) my technical role, I spent a lot of time with our marketing department, and I learned just enough to be dangerous. I was fascinated with the personalities, and how they differed from those in software development. Alphas dominated. Data-backed risk equaled reward. Ambition was the name of the game. Could I use that for my story?
Yes, I certainly could, and that’s how Ellen was born. Ellen, a byproduct of the series’ aftermath, trying to reclaim her old life and fit into a society that doesn’t quite know what to make of her. For any who’ve read The Z-Tech Chronicles, you’ll probably agree Dela was a natural complement, who had history and personality to spare, and was an easy insert into the story.
Full disclosure: having written over 600,000 words in the series so far, making a short story was more effort than I ever thought a mere 10,000 words could be. I wrote it. I revised it. I sent it to my alphas, who tore it apart. I sent it to by betas, who ripped it to shreds. I sent it to an editor friend of mine, whose constructive criticism forged it into a fine literary weapon. All told, I had more combined comments on this short story than on my novel, which was fifteen times its length.
Then came the nail-biting submission. I’d submitted a manuscript to this publisher before and been rejected. I checked and double-checked that my submission conformed to standard manuscript format as they requested, provided the required personal information, and prayed.
A few days later, I received a reply. “Once Upon a Nightwalker” had been accepted, despite me misspelling the title on the cover page. The original title was “Dela Suther: Corporate Equalizer,” which I changed at the last minute because, as interesting as she was, Dela was a minor character, and the alpha and beta readers had called me on it. (“Mortifying” doesn’t quite describe my embarrassment when I realized my mistake. Thank you, Paper Angel Press, for taking a chance and reviewing my submission anyway).
I rejoiced when the payment came. It was many times more revenue than I had earned on all of my writing thus far. Then came my author copies: a shiny paperback and hardback, expertly formatted, complete with business cards and postcards to hand out for promotion. I also received access to logos and other graphics for promotion on my web site and social media. It was an impressive press kit that spoke highly of their professionalism.
I started reading it on the weekend. The guidelines for submission had been intentionally vague (I learned later) to capture a wide variety of stories. My own plot had been a guess at what they were looking for, and I was insanely curious how other authors had interpreted those same guidelines.
Unfortunately, I was only two-thirds finished when the most enjoyable part of the entire process came about: the virtual launch party. Many of the authors who’d contributed came together with the publisher in a video conference, where we got to chat about our stories, what inspired us, other works, and the submission and review process. It was wonderful getting to know everyone, and made reading their stories that much more enjoyable.
As for what those stories contained, read on for a preview. You can also learn more here: https://www.ryansouthwickauthor.com/corporate-catharsis
By Steven Radecki
Ever seen that guy at the top—you know, the one who stepped on everyone and everything to get there, and generally makes everyone else’s life miserable because he doesn’t give a darn about anyone but himself? This story is about that guy, and what many of us wish would happen to him.
By Andrea Monticue
Video conferencing is flakey at the best of times, so when Gregg’s goes awry one day and patches him into someone else’s conference, it’s not a huge surprise—until he discovers who’s really on the other end.
By L. A. Jacob
Corporate restructuring is never fun, even when your business is creating mystic hexes. But every once in a while, they take a turn you don’t expect.
Once Upon a Nightwalker
By Ryan Southwick (me!)
Ellen is a Nightwalker whose affliction has made resuming her old job and relationships difficult. Tonight, she has some unexpected help.
Learn more about The Z-Tech Chronicles here: https://www.ryansouthwickauthor.com/z-tech-chronicles
By J Dark
Ever thought there must be a better job out there—one meant specifically for you? Cameron did. And today, he’s determined to find it.
Other Duties as Assigned
By Stephen Pimentel
Careful when opening ancient texts of reputed destructive power. Some are exactly as advertised. And, inevitably, someone has to pay someone else to clean up the mess.
By Sophie Kearning
Sometimes odd co-workers are far odder than they appear.
Reduction in Force
By Steve Soult
Out of depression and adversity, unlikely relationships can form.
By Kimberley Wall
There’s never enough time to do everything required of your job. The bigger the corporation, the less they care, until they’ve sucked the life out of you.
Best Served Cold
By Robert Schoonover
Finding your beloved wife dead in the kitchen is enough to break anyone. Discovering the corporation you work for was responsible because they’re cheapskates is another matter entirely.
By Laureen Hudson
Sometimes, when corruption runs deep, it takes a special kind of specialist to make justice reign—a specialist with glitter and a smile.
Natalia Cauzillo’s Last Ride Out
By Vern Smith
Everyone has a form of escape from the humdrum of corporate life. For Natalia Cauzillo, freedom is drugs, music, and dancing.