Monthly Archives: May 2019

Ideas 4

Another in my series of posts about the genesis of my longer works of fiction, and maybe also about how a couple of shorter ones came about as well. I apologize if I’ve told these stories before, and if you’ve read them before. (Which doesn’t seem terribly likely, in any event.)

I often get ideas from reading other stories. I mentioned that I had the idea for one of my works-in-progress after reading Bryan Smith’s Last Day. In his story, an asteroid is going to hit the Earth, and so the crazies and criminals decide they can do what they want to do with impunity. I thought, what would happen if the Moon was going to hit the Earth? So I set out to write a similar story, but it became something different very quickly.

My story, The Never Ending Night, had its beginnings in a Richard Laymon novel, much like The Cave did. I don’t recall the name of the novel, but it was about a night that doesn’t end. So is mine. One day the sun just doesn’t come up. Laymon’s story focused on a girl who does whatever she does during this odd time. Mine focuses on a neighborhood block, told through the eyes (mostly) of a teenage girl. I give Laymon his props for the story’s idea, even though my work is really nothing like his.

Another horror author I’ve read is Edward Lee. He wrote a book called City Infernal in which Mephistopolis is a literal city in Hell. I liked the concept and started writing something with Hell as a real place, powered by human suffering. And those who cause extreme suffering are agents of this place. The story became Reciprocal Evil, a short novel of maybe 52,000 words. My story focuses on a college kid attending a Jesuit university in Chicago. I’m not sure I name the city and I know I don’t name the college, which allows me a bunch more artistic freedom with locations and things around campus. This kid is studying the nature of evil in his own way, and is searching for meaning in his own life. But along the way he attracts a particularly unsavory character — a serial killer. Again, it really has nothing to do with the Edward Lee story, except for the fact that I started with the idea that Hell is a real physical place, though not in our dimension.

Odd Man Out might be my favorite of my five longer works. As I’ve stated before, it began as a short story, which was written for a contest called THE PUBLICAN BRIEF. For that story, we were given an opening sentence and six random words, and we had to write a story around them. My own was this short story, which came out to about 1,600 words in length. The story was okay. It didn’t win the contest, but people liked it. I liked it; I thought it had an interesting premise: that one of a group of friends was going to eliminate another because of a conflict over a girl. I thought there was a longer story in there somewhere, and one day I started to write it.

Honestly, I thought it would be about seven or eight thousand words when I was done. But it got longer. And longer. Pretty soon it was over thirty thousand words. I think it ended up at something like 37,000 words. I couldn’t leave it where the short story ended, so it became a complete story, and is probably the one I’m most proud of.

I may have one more of these “Ideas” posts in me. I had kind of an interesting experience trying to write a short story, and maybe it too will become a novella or even a novel some day. But for now, I’m going to end this post with the usual comment that, if any of these sound interesting, the links to the Amazon ebooks are right there on your right. The Never Ending Night is $0.99, and both Odd Man Out and Reciprocal Evil are priced at $2.99.


If you read the post called Ideas, 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.


Ideas 3

So, more about the genesis of some of my stories. I typically write horror, as you probably can infer from the covers there on the right. Where does a writer like me get ideas for horrific stories?

In general they come from real life. They come from stories and events that I find horrifying. They also come from other stories. For example, I wrote a novella called The Inn, which is about a group of high school band students and their teacher being terrorized in a non-chain roadside inn as they travel to a music festival.

The genesis of this story came from a book I read by William Malmborg, called Text Message. That book is set in a suburban shopping mall during a big snowstorm. Horrifying things happen to a pair of sisters who are not exactly doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

When I read it, I thought that I’d like to try writing something like it. So I came up with the idea of writing about an inn, discarding a few other public locations like a high school or college, and a museum. Something about those inns always sort of unnerved me. I imagined that there were cameras hidden in the rooms that were spying on the unaware occupants. What if that was taken further? So that’s where I took it.

While the idea for The Inn came out of Malmborg’s story, the terrifying parts all came out of my own twisted imagination.

I also wrote another novella about four eighth grade boys who discover a cave in a forest preserve near their home. I set it in a fictionalized version of the neighborhood I grew up in, and in fact, I used fictionalized versions of some of the kids I grew up with. They’re NOT those kids, mind you, they’re just sort of based on them, loosely.

I read a book by Richard Laymon called The Traveling Vampire Show, which featured a trio of kids who are uber-curious about this traveling vampire show carnival thing that’s come to town. And they make strange discoveries of horrifying things. I wanted to write something like that; it’s one of my favorites by Laymon. So again, I thought about what I might want to write about — some adventure that these kids could have that could end in something horrific. And I came up with discovering a cave.

I love caves; we often visit them if we come across them on our travels. I’ve gone out of my way to go through caves over the years, and while I can’t say I ‘study’ them, I’m very interested in them. As a young boy, I was also very interested in them. We did a lot of exploring, and we actively looked for caves. We never found one. But I imagined this story from the idea of, what if we had found a cave? And what if that cave wasn’t exactly simply a geological feature?

It was easy to come up with something horrific from there. Today, I could probably write sixty or seventy thousand words on it, making it a proper novel. When I wrote it, however, most of my experience was with writing short stories. It was shorter than I hoped, but longer than I feared it would be. And it told a complete story.

You can see both The Inn and The Cave on the right, and if you click on the covers, it will bring you to Amazon where you can purchase The Cave for $0.99 and The Inn for $2.99.


If you read the post called Ideas, 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.


Ideas 2

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.



Writers always have too many ideas for stories. One of the most common complaints I hear among my writer friends is that they have more ideas than they have time to write them.

Me, I’m like a butterfly. I flit from flower (idea) to flower (idea) and often don’t end up getting anything accomplished. Things will grab me. It might be a movie (I’m looking at you, Endgame!) or a book, or something someone says to me, or a dream. And I get enthusiastic about telling that story, and I move away from the one I was most currently working on.

Consequently, I have many unfinished stories in various stages of completion. I have five published works, plus a couple of collections of short stories, but my unfinished works greatly outnumber the finished ones.

When they announced The Force Awakens, I had the thought that space opera was going to be a big thing, so I started a novel about a space junker who comes across a small derelict starship, but the ship isn’t exactly empty, and to the main character, there’s a whole lot of deja vu happening.

Here we are, years later, as the third of this Star Wars trilogy is being released soon, and I still haven’t finished it. I started over once because I liked the story I was telling but I didn’t like the way I was telling it. Still, there it sits. I work on it from time to time, especially after I read some space opera by someone like Chris Fox or Lindsey Buroker or Val St. Crowe. And I do plan on finishing it. I think it might be pretty cool when I finally do so. But when that will happen, I don’t know.

There’s always a post-apocalyptic novel out there to attract my attention (squirrel!!) and most recently, I’ve read novels by Steven M. Moore (The Last Humans), M.P. McDonald (her Infection series), and John L. Monk (Hell’s Children). I started writing one back in the nineties, called Inherit The Earth, and Monk’s stories especially inspired me to get back on that one. I’ve written over 60K words, and I don’t know how much more I have to go. I just know that eventually I have to end it. Then edit it and probably lose about a quarter of it. We’ll see.

I also was inspired years ago by Hugh Howey’s Wool series, and I started this novel which originally was set in his universe. But after a short email exchange with Hugh, I realized that it wouldn’t work with his concepts. Instead of stopping, I changed what I needed to change and plowed ahead. It stands at something close to 100K words, but still doesn’t have an end in sight.

Years ago I wrote a trilogy of vampire detective stories called The Striker Files. At some point, I thought it would be fun to continue that story. Seems like there’d be ramifications from the events at the end of the third story. So I settled in to write another story in that universe. It ended up being novel length, right around 60K words give or take, and while it answered the questions posed by the first three short stories, it brought up even more questions. That finished work is untitled and I’m still editing it. But I am writing another novel in that series, and currently I think it stands at about 16K words, give or take.

I also used to be part of a forum on Delphi Internet Services called the Horror Discussion Group. We developed a shared world called Addison Falls, and I wrote a story called The Ghost Train which can be found in my collection Die 6 (see it there on the right? Scroll down if you don’t see it by now). At some point I decided to start writing a novel in that world. I don’t have a title, but I work on it every so often. It stands at about 25K I think, and I don’t know when it will be done.

I also read a book by Bryan Smith called Last Day or something like that, and it inspired me to write a similar story about the moon coming toward the Earth. It’s horror, not science fiction, so I don’t have to be scientifically accurate. After all, it has a werewolf as one of its main villains. It stands at around 20K. I am not sure it will end up as a novel; it may only make it to novella length.

I’ve also written one MG/YA novel (about 53K words) with my son that is complete, about a pair of siblings searching for their missing father with the help of his friend and colleague. It’s got odd villains (courtesy of my son), an interesting setting (mostly the American southwest) and of course, treasure. It will be published some day. But drawing from the inspiration of writing that and reading a lot of their stuff (Rick Riordan’s work in particular, like the Percy Jackson novels and The Thirty Nine Clues), I started another about young people finding themselves inside of a modern day King Arthur story, complete with Morgan Le Fay and whatever else I can dream up. I’m probably only 10K into it, but again, I hope it will some day be published.

You get the idea. There are others. I have a couple of odd urban fantasies cooking, a weird kidnapping/thriller set in Thailand (a mostly imaginary Thailand, since I’ve never been there), a couple of thrillers (one horror, one not) set in colleges, and a psychological Coben-esque thriller set in my home town. Some have quite a lot written, some not so much. But the ideas, they keep coming.

Someday I’ll have time to write them all.