There's an old saying that goes: "No man loves his debtors." It is hard to feel gratitude. It is hard to live with the knowledge that you owe someone, that you are in their debt. It typically breeds resentment and eventually denial. But this isn't always the case.
There are a great many people to whom I am indebted. My writing career may have never gotten off the ground had it not been for a few writers and editors who helped me along the way. My fighting career would have never begun had it not been for my trainers, promoters, and matchmakers. Here's a partial, but by no means exhaustive, list of those to whom I owe a debt.
Floretta James White (Mom). Besides giving birth to me and raising me, my mother always encouraged me to do and be whatever I wanted to do. She believed that everyone should explore their talents and do what they love. She was also the one who exposed me to horror and nurtured my love of reading. Without a doubt, I would be nothing I am today without her. I love you, Mom. Thanks for making me the man I am today.
Bob Strauss. I had just started writing, posting stories at the Horror Author's Network's now defunct (and greatly missed) website, when Bob contacted me to tell me how much he enjoyed my writing. I had never heard of Extreme Horror before him. I naively assumed that all horror was extreme, but then I hadn't read much horror in over a decade. I was just writing the type of stories I wanted to read. He was the one who told me about Edward Lee, Richard Laymon, and Jack Ketchum. He was also the one who told me about Delirium Webzine and suggested that I submit stories there. I owe you one, my friend.
Shane Ryan Staley. I was an unknown writer still learning his craft back in 2001 when I submitted my first story to Delirium Webzine. It was a twisted little tale called "After The Cure" about an orgy breaking out following the cure for AIDS. Shane published it and then followed that up by putting me in his first and only online gross-out contest. I entered another story titled "Nothing Better to Do" about a man trying to kill a dog who was really a two thousand year-old demon that planted subliminal suggestions in his mind at night while he slept. That story was the first one to really get me noticed. At that time, Delirium Webzine was one of the most widely read horror webzines online. Their Sunday night chats (which I still miss) were attended by some of the brightest up and coming writers in the genre including Brian Keene, Paul Tremblay, and Monica O'Rourke. Putting my little story online helped introduce me to all of them. I was surprised when I went to my first convention, Horrorfind I, and people noticed me and remembered me because they'd read me in Delirium. Shane was also responsible for my first sale to a major anthology, Dark Testament and the publication of my first solo novella, His Pain. Even my short story collection, The Book Of A Thousand Sins, was originally written for Delirium Books at Shane's request though he later passed on it. Thanks for all you've done for me, Shane.
Brian Keene. I was attending my first horror convention, Horrorfind I, when I met Brian. I had spoken to him online before. He'd even published a couple of my stories in Horrorfind's fiction section. Still, I was surprised by how friendly and accommodating he was. He introduced me to several writers, editors and publishers. It was Brian who, at a later Horrorfind, introduced me to Edward Lee, inspiring the collaboration that would have the first major impact on my career, The Teratologist. It was Brian who put me in a reading slot with Edward Lee and Jack Ketchum, one of the highlights of my career, which led to the best blurb I've ever received. It was Brian who introduced me to Don D'Auria, which led to my first mass-market deal for Succulent Prey. No other person has done more for my career than you, Brian. My debt to you is immeasurable. Thanks, my friend.
Brian Hopkins. Brian was my mentor when I first joined the HWA. My style was raw and unpolished (some may say it still is) when he took me under his wing. I doubt that I would have gotten anything published back then if not for his guidance.
Edward Lee. I had just started reading Lee's work when I met him at Horrorfind. I was blown away when he told me that he had read and enjoyed my writing. A nearby editor overheard the exchange and offered to publish a collaboration between the two of us and thus Teratologist was born. Lee didn't have to agree to it. He had plenty of other authors clamoring to work with him. If he hadn't though, my career would never have received that much needed boost. Thanks, my friend.
Monica J. O'Rourke. I met Monica online at Delirium's Sunday night chats and in person at Horrorfind. We hit it off pretty quickly. Her twisted little novel, Suffer The Flesh, remains one of my favorite reads. After reading it, I contacted her about collaborating on a piece and Poisoning Eros, one of my most popular and sought after collaborations, was born. Since then MoJo has been my behind the scenes weapon proofreading nearly every novel and novella I've published. Thanks, my luv.
Larry Roberts and Jamie La Chance. I put them together because, my very first novel, Succulent Prey, would never have existed had Jamie not read it and recommended to Larry that he publish it and had Larry not agreed to take that world altering leap of faith on a new writer. This book was the one that introduced me to the world and later led to my first mass-market deal. My sincere gratitude to both of you.
Don D'Auria. Yes, I have had my issues with Leisure Books. Still, the fact remains that my star would not be shining nearly so bright had Don not agreed to publish my first mass-market novel. And, had he not published The Resurrectionist, the possibility of seeing the product of my imagination on the silver screen would not exist either. Thanks for everything, Don.
Maurice Broaddus. Yeah, I know. I'm stretching here, but the reality is that if Maurice had never invited me to join his messageboard and never invited me to speak at his church, I would never have realized how many people were actually interested in my views on atheism. Arguments with Maurice have led to many of my most popular essays and even led to the creation of my blog at GODLESSANDBLACK.blogspot.com. Our collaboration, Orgy of Souls, introduced my work to a whole new audience and (if he ever gets his ass in gear) our latest collaboration, God's Wrath, is destined to make serious ripples. Thanks, Maurice!
Kru Sam Phimsoutham. Kru Sam was my first Muay Thai instructor. I would never have stepped into the ring had it not been for the patience and skill Kru showed in training me throughout my amateur career and his commitment in sticking by me through my pro career as well, even when I was training with Master Toddy. He was there to train me for my retirement fight. Much of the man I am today, I owe to you, sir. Thank you.
Thohsaphon Sitiwatjana (Master Toddy). When I turned pro, I moved to Las Vegas to train with the world famous Master Toddy. I lived at his house, ate at his table, and fought whoever he put in front of me, even when I sometimes had no chance of winning. I trusted the man that much. If he said fight, I fought without question. I would never have fought in Japan had it not been for Master Toddy. I would never have had some of my most cherished memories. Many of the techniques I use and teach today, I learned from you. For that, I owe you much. Thank you.
There are many more people I could add to this list. My wife, my ex-wife, my ninth grade English teacher, my great-grandfather, my grandmother, my philosophy professor, my latest collaborators: J.F. Gonzalez and Andre Duza, my former fight promoters, the matchmakers who got me my first fights in Japan, everyone who's ever bought one of my books. There are too many to name. My point here is that I hate being indebted to someone else as much as anyone. I am militantly independent and I like to think I can do it all by myself, but the reality is that none of us can. We all need other people and it is good to know there are people who will step in to help even when you think you don't need it. I love my debtors. There is no way I could ever fool myself into thinking I could have gotten half as far in my life without you. Thank you all.