In the last post I detailed a lot of the stories I have going. In this one I thought I’d talk more about the ones I have already written. Every one of them has its genesis in some idea and I thought I’d talk about how they came about. I may have told some of these stories before (in fact, I know I have), so if you’re a regular reader of my blog, sorry for the repetition. (Though I’m not sure such a “regular reader” exists.)
My first published works were short stories. Most of them came out of my contest entries at the Book and Candle Pub. All but one in my first collection (14 Dark Windows) was written as a contest entry or as part of that forum’s writing endeavors. The one that wasn’t written in that manner is titled Sole Occupant, and it had its genesis in something that happened while I was a senior in college. Eight of us rented a big old house, once built (or so we were led to believe) by the Bordens of Borden Milk fame. It was a weird house; there were chains hanging from the walls in the basement. We were always telling ghost stories. So one night I happened to be home by myself, and I was upstairs in my room on the third floor. I was listening to music and had been studying a little bit when I heard a sound from the first floor.
It could have been one of my roommates returning, so I called down, but no one answered. Then my mind started playing with things. We lived on the edge of a pretty bad neighborhood, just south of the college. So I was sure someone had broken in.
The sounds continued to float upwards, and I kept listening at the vent for something recognizable. Finally I heard footsteps on the stairway leading up to the third floor. And then — a shadow on the floor, as if cast by someone standing there waiting. So I grabbed the cat and a baseball bat (the cat was our house cat who was sleeping on a chair in my room), walked toward the door, tossed the cat in front of the door. My thinking was that whoever it was would react and I’d take them out with the baseball bat. Looking back on this plan, what if it had been one of my roommates playing a prank on me? I could have put them in the hospital.
Anyway, the cat just sort of looked at me like I was crazy and licked her paw, then walked away. I jumped to look in the stairwell, and no one was there. Then I went back to my room and looked back in the hallway. No shadow.
I went downstairs and had a few cocktails with every light on. I think my roommates found me, pretty tipsy and singing to the cat or something.
So I wrote up that story, embellished, of course. My roommates’ names were left in there (because why not?) but the rest is fiction. Or was it?
I shopped the story around to magazines, and got a lot of positive feedback, but no one bought it. So it became the first thing I published. I published it with another story (called The Only Solution) as a short story pair, with a cover done by my friend Rich Siegle, who has designed covers professionally. It was also the cornerstone of that first collection that I mentioned above.
If you want to read it, it’s available at Amazon for only $0.99, along with thirteen other stories. Most of those don’t have stories behind them that are as involved as this one. Since this became pretty long, I think I’ll add another post in a couple of days for more about ideas and inspiration.
If you read my last post, you see that I do have some finished stories that just aren’t ready for publication yet. If you’d like to hear about them when they’re released, please sign up for my mailing list. The link is over there at the right, near the top of the page. Or click here: Mail List. Thanks.