Jesus, do you see that guy to the left? The one whose head is exploding in a bouquet of paper, various typed notes on them? That's pretty terrifying to me. I'd love to go out like that, as though one day, the embarrassment of riches that lives in my head just can't be contained any longer, and my head just explodes with already-typed and edited material.
The other day, I was lucky enough to attend my first gathering of members of the Horror Writers Association, of which, I am a member, thanks to my publishing of People: A Horror Anthology About Love, Loss, Life & Things That Go Bump in the Night. I couldn't be more excited to meet with so many great, talented writers, most of them super-local and not far from me, so, it's a valuable opportunity to connect with them. At the first meeting I was able to attend, there was a discussion about writing, and overcoming the various hurdles that face writers, every day. Whether its having the time to write, or if the ending isn't making itself abundantly clear, whatever the excuse, it was sorta' touched on during the gathering. I was the newbie in the group, so I didn't want to monopolize the conversation, so I listened to these incredibly talented guys chat about their writing styles and modes.
I remember, years ago, I met an author named Keith DeCandido, lots of personality, huge genre guy. Very friendly and affable in my experience meeting and chatting with him. I remember him saying that he preferred to write at a specific time of day, as opposed to whenever. I, personally, have always found I'm most productive in the middle of the afternoon. I'm writing this very blog while sitting in a Brockport, NY restaurant, eating a haddock sandwich (with provolone cheese, thank you very much), hammering away on my laptop and eavesdropping on the conversations around me. In a few minutes, I'll be knee-deep in editing two stories I finished this past week, one vastly stronger than the other. This will continue into the late afternoon, until I decide to leave and either head back to Long Island, or find a hotel here in the snowy upstate regions most metro-NYers forget exists.
My point is, I suppose, is that it doesn't matter when you write. No time is better than any other, the key is to write when the inspiration strikes you. I get that we all have obligations, kids, work, whatever the case may be, but finding the time to decompress and write (or paint, crochet, knit, draw, whatever the hell you love to do) is just as important as the work you do every day. Without indulging one's passions, what's the point?
When I'm at work, I like to write during my off-periods, logging into the computer in the teacher's lounge and hammering out a few pages a day. I'm lucky I get to do that, other folks, locked in cubicles, don't get to, so I get it. If you want to write, just write. Find the time, no matter when it is, and exorcise your demons.
Welcome to the first edition of Sunday Scaries! Here, we'll be highlighting various pieces of fiction, often horror-centric, by a variety of authors. This week, we'll be focusing on a story by Robert P. Ottone, author of People: A Horror Anthology About Love, Loss, Life & Things That Go Bump in the Night.
This story is featured in that collection, so, we hope you enjoy it!
Take Only What You Need
I was dreaming about the Care Bears when my mom ran, screaming, into my bedroom the night we fled the house. I was floating on a cloud with Lionheart, who was my favorite because he wasn’t a bear at all, but a lion, obviously. We were singing, eating pizza, and going to a playground that floated in the sky, but I never made it there because mom woke me up, screaming that we needed to “get out of here.”
Half asleep, my mom covered my eyes with her jacket, as I carried my stuffed Lionheart doll down the long staircase in the house. I heard noises. Glass breaking, the sound of wind blowing, wood creaking, doors slamming. I heard the heavy stomps of what I thought was my father in the attic above us, but only as an adult, and after having had countless therapy sessions with four different analysts, only now realize that it wasn’t dad at all.
When I got to the bottom of the staircase, I tripped, and when I looked up, I saw the wrought-iron chandelier swaying, the lightbulbs on it flickering, casting shadows all over the entryway to the house, and at the top of the landing. Shapes and figures emerged in the darkness and I didn’t know who they were, and when I squinted to see through the combination of sleepiness and confusion, they didn’t have any features. Just shapes in the minimal light, cast in total shadow.
My mom reached for me to help me up, but something grabbed her by the hair and pulled her backward, halfway up the stairs we just came down. I screamed and backed into the corner of the foyer, watching in fright as my mom struggled with something that simply wasn’t there. I watched as something pulled her by her hair up a few more steps, until she was able to rip herself free.
“Teddy, run! Go outside!” mom screamed at me, but when I grabbed the doorknob, it felt hot, and twisted in my hand without me turning it. Mom eventually met me at the door and tried to break it down, but it didn’t work.
“Where’s daddy?” I asked, shouting over the noise and animation of the house.
Mom didn’t answer. She kept trying to break the door down. I looked back at the chandelier, still swaying. Eventually, it broke free and smashed to the ground, sending metal and glass everywhere.
We ran to the back door, through the kitchen and laundry room. Locked, we struggled with the door, until finally, mom got it open and we darted out the back, into the yard. Pausing a moment, mom looked at the house and saw a shadow in the attic window. The shape of a man stood there, watching us, his hand pressed to the window.
“Stay here, do not go back in there,” mom shouted before sprinting back into the house, the back door slamming shut behind her.
One of the side windows of the house exploded outward, sending glass everywhere and causing me to jump. Clutching Lionheart tighter, I was just barely able to track my mom through the house, room to room until she made it to the door to the attic, which was in the guest bedroom. Waiting for what seemed like forever, I heard her scream, watched the window in the attic crack from something being slammed against it, and closed my eyes.
After a little while, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I opened my eyes and my parents were standing there, looking white and covered in scratches and bruises. Dad scooped me up and we ran to the car. We had to cross over the broken glass, but dad didn’t even flinch. He placed me in the back seat, buckled me in, and got into the passenger seat. Mom started the car and we screeched out of the driveway, down the secluded street, toward town.
I turned and looked back at the house for the last time.
9/30/2019 0 Comments
I remember back in college, my professors seemed to disagree on the notion of listening to music while writing. I had a screenwriting teacher who was amazing and thought the idea of using music to help power and pattern our scenes and sequences was smart, so, I got into the habit of doing that for everything I've ever written.
The invention of apps like Spotify and Amazon Music make it so much easier to put together a mix of tunes to help power your own creative ventures. I've made so many playlists built on the idea of mood and activity, it's almost absurd. My friends know about and enjoy my annual "Cigars & Summer" playlists, and I still have cassette tapes of my mixes that I used to make back in middle and high school. Back when "middle school" was referred to as junior high, anyway.
My point is, every book I publish will come with curated playlist, and the one for my first book, People is no different. Loaded with songs to help set the mood and establish the tone of Resting Hollow and its surrounding areas, the playlist if a love letter to those artists, as much as it is to the book the stories are featured in.
Let music power your work, you won't be sorry.