Shine a Spotlight: Mark Allen Gunnells

Though much can and has been said about Facebook in a negative sense, (In fact, I have said much of it myself) Facebook truly does exactly what a social media site should. It allows wider networking. Because of the labyrinthine nature of the site, I have turned virtual corners and stumbled into some of the most fantastic people. People that I would never know otherwise.

One of those people is Mark Allen Gunnells.

Mark has a collection of stories out and rather than ramble about the man, I’ll post his story and let you judge for yourself. To me, this is the best way to decide whether or not I want to buy something for myself.

Hope you enjoy! And the link to the Amazon page where it can be purchased will both lead and follow the story.

Tales from the Midnight Shift by Mark Allan Gunnells


By Mark Allan Gunnells

The round little man smiled from behind the desk, his fingers steepled beneath his chin.  His cheeks were flushed and his eyes squinty.  His name was Ralph Wendal, and Chester took an instant dislike to him.  Still, he didn’t have to like the man to do business with him.

“So Mr. Simmons,” Ralph said, “are you familiar with Exclusivity Press?”

Chester considered lying but then decided against it.  “I must admit, before you contacted me, I’d never heard of Exclusivity.  I’ve since done a little research online, seems you do very limited collector’s editions with exorbitant price tags.”

“Our customers are not afraid to pay for quality, and quality is what they get from Exclusivity.  We select only the most talented authors and produce books that are minor works of art.  The materials we use—the paper, the ink, the cloth—it is all top-notch.  No skimping.  We release never more than fifty copies of a given book, and charge according to the high-end nature of our product.”

“Yeah, seems almost a shame to produce so few books though.  I’ve always felt the more people I can get my work out to, the better.”

Ralph’s lips twisted into a smile that looked more like a smirk.  “That’s a very mass-market frame of mind.”

Chester slunk down in his chair a bit, feeling chastised.  Over the last five years, he had published a string of paperback mysteries, and while he wasn’t exactly a household name, he made a modest living at it.  Still, he harbored dreams of moving up to hard covers.  He was aware of the collector’s market in a peripheral sense, books that were purchased not for the enjoyment of the stories told but the value of the book itself.  Literature as an investment, a commodity.  It had never seemed a market in which he could fit, but then Ralph Wendal had contacted him and asked if Chester had any unpublished material.  Chester had sent in a novella he’d given up any hope of publishing because there was little market for stories of that length these days, and then Ralph had requested this face to face meeting.

“And you really want Under Lock and Key?” Chester asked, referring to his novella.

“Most definitely.  I’ve already consulted our design team on the specifics of the layout and packaging, and one of our in-house artists has started sketching out ideas for the illustrations.  We’re very excited about the project.”

Chester wanted to be flattered by this, but his natural skepticism took hold.  He just seemed an unlikely match for Exclusivity Press.  “I’d hate to disappoint you, Mr. Wendal, but I’m not sure I’d be the best investment.  I mean, your cheapest books usually go for at least a couple hundred dollars, and I have doubts about my ability to pull in that kind of money.  I’m just not well-known enough.”

Ralph graced him with a slight, enigmatic smile.  “You’d be surprised, Mr. Simmons.  Very surprised.  We have many loyal customers who want anything we put out, simply because of the exclusive nature of our books.”

“I’m sorry, I know I’m coming across as a bit obtuse, but I’m not sure I see the appeal in that.”

“You see, Mr. Simmons, what a large portion of our customers are truly paying for, even more so than the extremely high production values of the books we produce, is the privilege of knowing that they own something that very few others in the world possess.  The lower the print run and the higher the price, the more they want it, because that means they are part of an even more select club.  That’s why Exclusivity never does reprints of previously published material, and our author contract stipulates that the works we publish can never be reproduced in any other form.  That way, we guarantee our customers that the books will never be devalued by popular consumption.”

Chester found himself frowning at the little man.  “I just fail to understand that way of thinking, I guess.  Personally, when I discover a book that I love, I want everyone to read it.  I want to spread it around, not horde it for myself.”

“That is a mindset a lot of common people have.  Exclusivity caters to more sophisticated clientele.”

Chester bristled at the term common people.  Ralph’s snobby demeanor and superior attitude was starting to piss Chester off, but he tried to hold it in.  The truth was, the publishing biz was a bit incestuous, one publisher tended to have connections with another and another, and it was not in an author’s best interest to burn any bridges.

“Well, as I’m sure you’re aware,” Chester said, exerting quite a bit of mental energy to keep the anger out of his voice, “my audience is primarily made up of common people.  Why would you even want to publish anything of mine?”

“For that precise reason.”  Ralph leaned forward with his elbows on his desk, his eyes glowing with excitement.  “You’ve never published any kind of collector’s edition, which would make Under Lock and Key a one of a kind type of product.  Our customers will go into a frenzy to possess such an item.”

“So how much would you charge for something like that?  Two hundred, three hundred dollars?”

Ralph sat back in his chair, placed one hand over his mouth and giggled in a decidedly prissy manner.  “Oh no, we’ve got something much more grand in store for you, Mr. Simmons.  Considering what we anticipate will be high demand for your release, we’ve come to the conclusion that you’re the prefect candidate to be the first in a new venture from Exclusivity Press.”

“New venture?”

“Yes, we’re calling it the One and Only series.”

“One and Only?” Chester said, silently chastising himself for merely repeating back everything Ralph was saying.  “That almost makes it sound like—”

“One copy,” Ralph interjected, bouncing in his seat as if his joy could not be contained, a look of almost orgasmic proportions on his face.  “We’ll produce only one, at a cost of $500,000.

Chester’s gasp was so sudden and deep that he started coughing, choking on his own saliva.  His ears were burning, as if the impossibility of what he’d just heard had set them on fire.  When he had recovered enough to speak, he said, “Surely you’re pulling my leg?  That’s madness.”

“I anticipate the book to sell within seconds of being posted, with dozens of customers being sorely disappointed that they were not the one who hit the BUY button first.”

“A half a million bucks!  Who in his right mind would fork over that kind of cash for any book?  And frankly, this novella isn’t even one of my strongest stories.”

Ralph rolled his eyes and started talking to Chester as if explaining simple arithmetic to a mentally deficient child.  “We’ve gone over this, Mr. Simmons.  It isn’t the story my customers are buying; it’s the exclusivity.  The book itself will be more than worth the price, I assure you.  Since Under Lock and Key deals with a group of professional thieves trying to crack a seemingly uncrackable safe, the book will be packaged in a thin platinum-lined case with a combination lock.”

“What?  Platinum?  Are you serious?”

“Of course, we always give our customers their money’s worth.  But even if you were to remove the inherent value of the object itself from the equation, I assure you our customers would gladly pay that amount merely for the bragging rights and satisfaction that comes from knowing they have something that no one else on the entire planet has.  Knowing that others want it, covet it, but they’re the sole possessor…that’s priceless.”

Having had just about enough of this insanity, Chester rose from his chair and said, “I’m sorry, Mr. Wendal, but I may as well stop wasting your time.  I’m afraid this isn’t going to work out.”

Ralph looked up at him serenely.  “What do you mean?”

“I mean that you are not a booklover, you have no respect for the art of storytelling, and if what you say is true, then neither do your customers.  You’re just a bunch of stick-up-the-ass snobs, and if you had your way books would only be available to the super rich.  That’s not a philosophy I can back.  I will not be publishing with Exclusivity Press.”

“I’m afraid production has already begun.”

Chester gaped at the little man for a moment before barking out a brittle laugh.  “I haven’t signed any contract, and I won’t be doing so.”

Ralph shrugged.  “That’s okay.  We have excellent forgers on staff.”

Striding across the office toward the door, Chester looked back over his shoulder and said, “Just you try that, buddy.  My lawyers will be all over you in two seconds flat.  In fact, I think I’ll give them a call just as soon as I get out of this madhouse.”

Chester gripped the doorknob and tried to twist it, but it wouldn’t budge.  He tugged at it, rattling the door in its frame, but it was locked tight.  There was a deadbolt but it could only be opened with a key.  Chester was effectively sealed up in this office.

From behind him, he heard Ralph say, “Mr. Simmons, I haven’t been entirely honest with you.  It isn’t only the platinum-lined case and exclusivity of your book that will fetch such a high price tag.  It’s also the fact that Under Lock and Key will be your last book.”

Hearing a click, Chester turned to see the gun in Ralph’s hand.

Tales from the Midnight Shift by Mark Allan Gunnells

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