East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

A story in search of its place


I might need a little help here, so suggestions are welcome.
Last April I wrote a story, in about a weekend. It was a one-shot horror story set in New York in the 1930s, but as I usually do when I write shorts, I designed it to work as the first in a series, should the characters meet the fancy of the readers.


I wanted to do something in the vein of the old pulps, but also more modern, closer to our modern sensibilities.
Straightforward but quirky.
So, it was a one-shot “with possibilities”, and it was intended as (possibly) the first outing of my very own occult detective/monster hunter, the extremely reluctant conjurer Steve Davies, a.k.a. The Mysterious Doctor Wu Yang1

“You got him?”
“Sure do, boss.”
“I still say we got the wrong guy.”
“Shaddap, Sal.”
“I mean, the guy’s no Chink.”
They had opened the car trunk, but I was still wearing a bag over my head. I was keeping as still as possible.
“You haven’t iced the guy, haven’t you?”
“No, boss. He’s as fit as a fish.”
“But he ain’t no Chink.”
They pulled me out of the trunk and dropped me on the floor, and they tore away the bag.
“Here he is, boss.”
The two bruisers that had picked me up in my dressing room were standing there, a third man between them. The new guy wore a nice tuxedo and sported a sort of Gable look.
“The Mysterious Doctor Wu Yang,” the new guy smirked, snapping open a flick knife.
I gasped.
“Scholar of the Occult, Master of Impossible Escapes,” he said, quoting my advertising. He cut the rope that tied my wrists. “So far, not worth the ticket.”

The 6000-words story is called The Chopping Squad, and it was written expressly for the collection Death Dances in the Moonlight, by Raven’s Head Press. It was accepted, and I was waiting for a contract when, as we all know, Michael Hudson of Raven’s Head passed away. It was sudden and dramatic, for me the loss of a friend and not just of my publisher.

Six months have gone by, and I’m pretty sure the Death Dances in the Moonlight will never see the light. And yesterday I was cleaning up my files and found The Chopping Squad, still sitting there. I re-read it. Did some tweaks. It’s a good story, if I do say so myself, and might be the start of a fun series.
And now I am wondering what I should do with this story and who knows, with this series.

You guys out there got any suggestion?
Should I try and sell it to a magazine?
Self publish it?
I’d hate to just let it rest forever. Stories are written to be read.

  1. the character was very tangentially inspired by the famous Chung Ling Soo (real name William Robinson), a fake Chinese stage magician, very popular at the turn of the last century. 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

5 thoughts on “A story in search of its place

  1. Were you already paid for the story? Is/was there a contract? Who is running that business now? Did someone buy the business or its assets? It would be crappy to have someone sue you for releasing the work (one way or another) in breach of some contract that could still be enforced.


    • No contract, no payment.
      I’ve been unable to track whoever is now handling Raven’s Head Press- if anyone actually is: the website’s not being updated, and there are no replies to my mails.
      So I am reasonably sure the rights have reverted back to me.


      • IANAL and this is the sort of thing that *could* end up with them… Maybe you should send them a letter via the same method you have normally corresponded with them in the past (eg the same way you sent them your manuscript) giving them 30days to respond as to their intentions or you are revoking any rights they may have to your work due to their failure to comply with the original terms (eg they never published it).

        Liked by 1 person

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