Dead Friends: Chapter 7

Lizzie didn’t want to go back there. She didn’t want to go back into the house that her friend had died in. She didn’t want to go back inside the small, wooden, decrepit place that some random stranger, old and naked, had come at her and tried to eat her and God only knows what else to her. She didn’t want to go near the place of that shadow man, but even more she didn’t want to go near the maggots.

Why was that troubling her? She didn’t know, and since she’d last been there, she had plenty of nightmares. She’d dreamed about the shadow man and his ticky-tat way of talking. She’d dreamed of the old man as she stared up at him with his member dangling in her face, but the ones she truly feared, the ones that woke her up in a sweat was when she dreamed she was in a bath tub covered in maggots, all of them with their hungry mouths. They were all eating her alive, tearing her apart and laying their eggs inside of her, more maggots bursting out of her.

As she stepped out of the back seat of the car bringing her back there, the image of that single white wormlike creature as it fell on her from the man’s penis kept leaping into her thoughts. Though unlike how it happened, she kept remembering it wrong. In her thoughts, it fell into her open mouth made its way into her stomach and was eating her while lying its eggs. With the butterflies she felt in her stomach, she couldn’t help but think there was some truth to nagging sense.

“Lizzie? You okay?”

Lizzie looked over to her friend who had brought her back there. She didn’t want to be back there, but they needed to get her keys and somewhere in there she had dropped them. The police when they went there hadn’t found them. They’d found her phone, but that was it. Well, the phone, and the bodies. They had found both her friend and the old man, but it was with the old man that things got weird. It was then that the cops questions had turned from helping her to questioning her about what happened because according to them, it couldn’t have been the way she had told them.

She went into the hospital three days ago, had been questioned by the police for the last two days both at the hospital and at the motel room she stayed in upon her release. They didn’t believe her story, and as much as she wanted to run away from all of it, she hadn’t. Something kept her here, pulled her, tied to it by something unseen.

“Are you sure your okay?” Elisabeth asked. Lizzie looked over at her and her boyfriend. She was thankful they had brought her out there, but tepid as she was only beginning to know these people. Elisabeth, it felt like Lizzie was using her to fill the void that Sarah had created, though Sarah, dead or not, was still trying to be her best friend. Her boyfriend though, was just as nice as Elisabeth was, and he had suggested they come out there. Well, he’d suggested coming out by himself so he could get Lizzie’s car and look for her keys.

What had possessed her to say she wanted to come back here? Sure, he’d need someone to come with him as they’d have two vehicles but anyone could have rode with him. She doubted Elisabeth would have come. The girl barely left Lizzie’s side, becoming her protector the more the sheriff dug into her with questions.

The old man…how could he have attacked her and killed her friend? He’d been dead for a week. The sheriff knew the man and had been at his funeral when they put him in the ground. He’d died of bone cancer barely able to lift his own arm, not able to walk for the last three months when the cancer got bad, so how had he attacked them?

Lizzie didn’t know. She had no answers of her own other than what she saw.

Maybe she really was crazy…

“Liz?”

Lizzie looked over at her, blinking away some of the thoughts though many remained. She just had to not get lost in them. Don’t focus on them right? That was easier said than done.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Just trying not to remember the last time I was here.”

“I get that.” Elisabeth’s boyfriend said. Lizzie struggled to remember his name and felt she should really remember it by now as they’ve hung out for more than a day.

“Chuck, you mind going in first? I’ll stay out here with Lizzie while you check it out.”

“Sure, let me get killed in the spooky old death house.”

“Chuck!”

The color drained in his face as he realized what he just said. Elisabeth was making jerking motions with her head towards Lizzie and while Lizzie couldn’t see her face, she was sure it was more than just the nod she was using to communicate how insensitive he’d just been.

“Oh my God I can’t believe I just said that.”

It was alright. Lizzie barely even noticed as she had slipped back into her thoughts and looking at the small house in front of her. She hadn’t really looked at it the first time. Sarah had been talking but Lizzie had been on the phone with Richard. Her brother had been having a melt down because his caregiver had a family emergency. Samuel, her brothers normal caregiver had called her and told her what was going on. Samual had called their service and Tommy, the backup, was on his way. She was sure that had been explained to her brother, but he had still called in a frenzy. He had continued on and she had to listen to him rant in that computerized voice as he typed it from his end of the call.

“It’s still a dump.” Sarah said as though she could read Lizzies thoughts. Lizzie looked over, across the car to the other side and there she stood. Of course her dead friend was still with her. No matter where she went, Sarah followed now, though she did have the decency not to follow her into bathroom.

Lizzie tried to pretend she wasn’t there, but it was hard. Closing her eyes never helped. Wishing the nightmare away didn’t do anything. Sarah was there wether she liked it or not.

Sarah was right though, the house was a dump. It looked like it had once been painted a drab yellow, tough not that much of the paint was still visible as much of the original color had long peeled away. The remnants of the paint lied in a bed of debris around the base of the house having been torn away after years of neglect and vicious winters tearing at it..

Outside, you couldn’t really see that the windows were blacked out. With the sun coming down and the boards that looked hastily placed to cover them, the house just looked dark inside. Her uncle really didn’t want anyone seeing in, or he didn’t want to see what was out there. Had her uncle seen the shadow man? Had he been hiding from him?

Maybe there were answers inside? She hadn’t thought about that before, but there could be something in there that explained that thing.

Now your just reaching. You know that. You just don’t want to go back in there and trying to give yourself reasons to go. Nevermind that you’ve come all the way back out there, you need to go in or else you’ll be running the rest of your life afraid to face anything.

And somewhere inside her, she was okay with that. Why not just run away from everything.

“Okay, well, I guess I’ll go in then. It’s unlocked right?” Chuck said as he neared the door. It was obvious he didn’t relish the idea of going in alone.

“Should be. I doubt the sheriff’s department locked up after themselves and I’m not sure where my keys are.” Lizzie said as she finally moved, taking tentative steps around to the front of the car. The dried leaves crackled beneath her, fallen from the trees overhead. There were a lot of them. She was surrounded in trees. The whole area was nothing but trees, and then a clearing with an old house. It was like the house was hiding from modern world, and the only connection to it was that small driveway barely wide enough for one car. “Be careful, the woods all rotted on the stairs.”

She had stopped him just before he had stepped onto the first step. There were only three of them to reach the small landing and the front door overhang. It was odd how it was set up. The overhang was blocked off, walled on three sides so that it didn’t allow for those inside to look out past the person directly at the door. Visitors had to walk up the stairs next to the house. It didn’t allow for someone inside to look out, but outside no one could see in.

Why would he be so worried about someone looking in? It was obvious the overhang was not a part of the original design as the wood was unpainted and it didn’t fit in with the architecture. He had to have built it himself.

“Your uncle was nuts.” She didn’t know who had said it. It was getting hard as Lizzie could no longer tell if it had been Sarah or Elisabeth who said it. They both sounded alike to her.

“I see what you mean. One of the boards collapsed, probably one of the deputies that’d been trampling around out here. I should be okay using the sides.”

“You be careful.” Elisabeth called after him. He disappeared and then there was a door slamming shut, what must have been the screen door as he entered the house.

“I don’t like him going in there alone” Lizzie said.

“This house is a dump. Why did your uncle live out here. It’s in the middle of nowhere, hidden in trees. I’ve heard of getting off the grid but this is going too far.”

“And you live here because?”

“Hey, I live in town. Sure it’s small, but I grew up here and I like it. I know everyone. But this…” Elisabeth holds her hand up motion towards the house and the surrounding clearing, “This wanting to know no one. He was hiding from someone.”

“Well, he did leave me a lot of money.” Lizzie said quietly, biting back what she wanted to say. That dread turning in her stomach. Her gut told her that he wasn’t out there to hide from someone, he was hiding from something and that eventually it got him.

“Yeah, I’d be careful with that money. You got no idea where it came from?”

“None.” Though it was becoming nice having it. The lawyer had somehow found out she was in the hospital and had let her know he had the money already put into her account as of yesterday, a full week sooner than anyone had expected. That allowed her to get ahold of someone, a person that one of the nicer deputies had suggested, that would come out and clean the mess of the kitchen so she wouldn’t have to see the blood.

Once Lizzie had told the lawyer about it, he had taken care of all the details. Lizzie didn’t have to worry about any of it. She guessed with money, none of that stuff was important anymore though the revelation was still mind boggling.

Lizzie started towards the side of the house. She had to see it, to see where it happened but she wasn’t sure she could go in the house. Not yet, but if she went around back…

“Hey! where ya going?” She heard Elisabeth rushing to catch up.

“You can see into the kitchen from the back clearing.”

“I thought you didn’t want to go in there.”

“I don’t. I just want to see in, see where it-“

She didn’t finish saying it as she went around the corner. As she walked along the side of the house she could see more of the back and it was different from what she remembered. When she had left the kitchen through the back door, it had been a small clearing, no buildings just woods, but now she could clearly see a large shed. It was unpainted and old, but definitely used. She saw a well trampled path that ran from the house to it.

What had her uncle been doing in there? It was large enough to fit three cars and something she’d more often find on farms for those large tractors. Back there amongst all the woods, she couldn’t see a way for them to bring in any large vehicles.

But that shed wasn’t why she was back there, and she forced her attention away from it as they came into the back yard.

The kitchen door was open, the screen door twisted at the bottom hinge, the top broken so that the door hung off to the side. The wooden interior door still open as it had been and now as she walked up she could see that the small metal stairs that were supposed to lead up to the door had been pulled away and set to the side where there was nothing but the kitchen wall, looking obscene with their stairway to nowhere. It would have been funny if she wasn’t where her friend had been killed. It did make her wonder about the sickness of the mind that drove her uncle to move them over there, never wanting whoever climbed them to get in.

“Lizzie! Wait up.” Elisabeth called. Lizzie wasn’t sure why she was supposed to wait. She was standing there by the back door. She hadn’t run around the house, so why would it take Elisabeth so long to catch up.

“Hey, what are you doing back here?” Chuck said, looking at her from where he had been standing in the kitchen.

Lizzie barely noticed either of them, her eyes transfixed on the last place she had seen Susan alive. The tile floor was spotless. The cleaners weren’t supposed to clean up more than the mess the bodies had made, but as she looked in, the kitchen was clean. All of it. She was sure the kitchen hadn’t been that clean in over ten years as it actually now looked like a room that food could be prepared in. It was amazing and they had all done this in just one night.

It truly was amazing what mountains money could move. Who ever had come out there had gone the extra mile, that was for sure, and to have been out there on their own. Lizzie didn’t think she’d ever be able to stay out there by herself. It was all just too creepy. Too much nature, all the bugs and animals. Never mind that the last time she’d been out there, there had been a homicidal deadman out to massacre them. How had her uncle been able to do it?

“Lizzie, we should get away from here.” Elisabeth said. She came up to her gently wrapping an arm around her shoulders. It was soothing and Lizzie wanted to melt back into the woman as she guided her away. Lizzie didn’t want to go though, pushing away from those comforting thoughts as she twisted out of Elisabeth’s grip and looked back at where her friend fell.

“I did… I died there.”

Lizzie didn’t have to turn to know that Sarah was also behind her. She could hear the tears in the dead woman’s voice and knew those tears were for her own death. Lizzie wanted to turn to her but what..how do you comfort the dead?

Maybe that was what she needed to do. Maybe Sarah was a ghost and until she came to deal with it, she’d always be there to haunt Lizzie?

As much as it hurt Lizzie to have her there with her, she wasn’t ready to let Sarah go. She couldn’t help Sarah with her grief when she was barely holding on to her own?

“-nothing..” Chuck was saying, though Lizzie hadn’t heard anything else. They were talking around her about her and she tried to shake free from the thoughts that kept tying her down so she once again could to focus. There’d just been so much in such a short time it kept drowning her in randomness.

“What?”

“I’d been through the house. I found your phone and keys but other than that, I couldn’t find anything. You sure you lost your purse in here?”

“I thought I had. I don’t know.”

“Well here’s this.” He said as he held out to her her phone, dead from lack of a charge, and her keys. As she studied the phone, she saw the spiderweb or cracks down the screen. She’d hoped she hadn’t dropped it, but looking at the damage she must have.

At least now she could afford to get a new one.

That didn’t comfort her, but as it dawned on her more and more it felt more like a rock growing in her stomach. Just ‘buy it’ was giving her a sour taste.

“Thanks.” She said, her voice flat as she flipped over the phone and saw the scratches on the back. They made up an odd pattern that tickled the back of her mind. She turned the phone back so she could look at the screen. Looking at that shape in the back hurt her eyes, though she didn’t know why.

“Was there anything else we need out here or should we go?” Chuck said as he jumped down the short distance to the ground.

She wanted to say yes, but found herself reaching up and climbing into the little kitchen. She didn’t know why, she didn’t want to go in, but something inside called out to her. She could feel a thrumming course through the wood as she touched it. The air was different, cooler, and she knew if it was winter and cold outside, that air would be warmer. It wanted her in there, and would accommodate for her. She just had to finish going in.

“Woah.” Chuck said as both Elisabeth and him reached out, both grabbing her and pulling her back. She didn’t fight them. They were right, but as much as she knew it, she still wanted to go in there.

“Lizzie?” Elisabeth moved to face her and look into her eyes.

“I’m fine. We can get out of here.”

“You sure?’

“Yeah, lets just go. I don’t ever want to come back here.”

“Yeah, the place is a dump.” Chuck said as he lead them back to their cars.

“You know you love it out here.” Elisabeth was teasing him, wrapping her arms around him.

“In the woods, yes. This house, no way. I saw inside there. There’s voodoo, or witchcraft shit all over in there. I think I’m cursed for just walking through it.”

“You’re kidding.”

“He’s not. Sarah and I saw some of it when we’d gone through. It’s disgusting and creepy in there. I’d never want to stay the night.”

Elisabeth studied the two of them as they stood to look back at the house. In the woods, something rushed through some of the underbrush, and it was loud in the silence around them. There were no birds chirping and Lizzie didn’t hear any flies buzzing around her. The slight breeze pushed back strands of her hair, but the leaves surrounding her remained still and silent.

Where were the mosquitoes. It was fall, but they shouldn’t all be dead yet. There had been plenty in town, and had even been some really big nasty ones larger than she’d ever seen back home. She was here, out in the woods where they should be attacking and feeding on her like a pack of vampires at a feast.

Into the trees, there was the occasional sound of something scurrying, but even those sounds were few and far between. By the house, it was silent, dead, and that silence grew, pressing more as she had now realized it and listened for it. The open clearing and space around her was closing in, suddenly feeling much smaller, almost on top of her.

“Okay, well, I’m thinking we get out of here unless there was something else you need.” Elisabeth said. Chuck nodded and she turned to Lizzie.

“Sure.”

“So you get what you needed?”

Lizzie nodded, holding up her keys and her phone.

“Okay, so we’re probably going to head back to my house. You can meet us there if you’d like. You remember the way right?”

“I don’t know. I might just head back home. I should check on my brother, see that he’s okay, and see how Jess and Dennis are doing. Sarah was their friend too.”

“Yeah, you don’t have to follow us. I didn’t know if you wanted to drive this late or not.”

“I’m not sure.”

“Okay.”

Lizzie looked back at the house. The sun was lowering on the far side of the house casting the shadow towards them. She just didn’t know how she felt or what she wanted to do. Where should she go? She didn’t know and if left alone, would probably just sit in her car at some parking lot crying. Was that a bad thing? It probably was, but still just felt right. She didn’t want to be around people right now, no matter now nice they’ve been to her.

“So what are you going to do with the house? Sell it?”

“I don’t know.” But she did know. She wasn’t going to do anything with it. She’d be back there again. She didn’t know why, but there was something in there she needed. She should go in and look. Her back muscles wouldn’t relax until she did. That little nestling of a panic attack she’d had all morning, that shortness of breath that never left her wouldn’t go away until she did.

She watched as her friends climbed into their car and she walked over to her own drivers side door. As they pulled away, she opened her door and got in. The world around her feeling like a dream that was fading and for now it was time to leave. She wasn’t going to go back in, not alone.

Sarah was waiting in the car’s passenger seat. She was still crying.

“I’m dead.”

Lizzie nodded.

“I’m dead, and I’m still here. What am I, a ghost?”

Lizzie shrugged. What did she say to her dead friend. Lizzie sure as hell didn’t have any of the answers.

“Can we get out of here please.”

Lizzie nodded again, starting the car and turning around to drive down the driveway. They got to the end of the drive and saw that Elisabeth and Chuck had stopped at the end, waiting to turn on the main road.

Lizzie didn’t feel like she was really there. Everything around her slipping into this unreal around her and she just sat there watching. She saw as the brake lights dimmed on the back of the car in front of her and then creep into the road. Then the truck felt like it came out of nowhere as it struck the car. The car had been a small compact. The semi was a large behemoth of a vehicle in comparison and had been going way to fast at it struck the little car on its broadside.

Lizzie just sat there, not knowing how long for her to comprehend what she had just seen. It had been Sarah tugging at her arm, telling her to call 911 and telling her she needed to rush to help them.

Help who? It couldn’t be? No, not again. But yes, it was all happening again, and more of her friends were probably dead.

Slowly, Lizzie pulled herself out of her seat, getting back out of the car. She knew what she would see, but walked to where the car was positioned against a tree, both sides smashed in by the multiple impacts. There was no rush. Why? She knew what she would find.

Throwback Thursday – Looking back at Hatched…

Here’s the first chapter of “Hatched.” Looking back, I had a lot of fun promoting this book, but my favorite was meeting up with none other than Svengoolie and give him some new reading material.

Free on Kindle Unlimited

****

“This is the Screamin’ Demon heading westbound on I-80. I need a bacon check, come back,” Bruce said into his radio. The road seemed clear ahead of him, but it was a dark night, hard to see past the overpasses where there might be a pig hiding back in its sty waiting to write him up on some paper. The last thing he needed on this last leg would be a damned ticket. He had already been on the road steady for thirteen straight days and was ready to take a hot shower and sleep in his own bed. He had four days off coming up on his return leg and was itching to spend almost all that time in his own bed. His icebox had been acting up for the last couple days, costing him a lot of time with having to make additional stops to check on his load. A couple times, he had to work on the unit to make sure it stayed cool and kept the meat he was hauling from going bad.

His CB crackled to life. “Hey, Demon. This is the Cat Scratch Express just coming from that way. You’re all clear to exit 93. Smooth sailing.”

“10-4, Cat Scratch. Keep an eye out as there is a bear sitting in that rest stop just past 112. He’s perched and ready to pounce.”

“10-4. Put the hammer down and catch you on the flip side.”

“Stay safe.”

“Same. Cat Scratch out.”

Well, at least the road would be clear. That was one less thing to weigh on his mind. He would be able to make his way into that little truck stop outside of Ottawa, fill his tank and bed in for the night. Come morning, he would carry on south toward Bloomington-Normal. By mid-day, he would be home.

Something in the sleeper area started to smell. There was that locker room smell of old gym socks that had been growing stronger throughout the cab, but something else also reeked back there. He would have to clean out the whole truck to find out just what it was. He should have washed his clothes along the way, but he was itching to get home, see his wife, and maybe even have a tea party with his little girl. His wife had told him about how his little girl had thrown a tea party the other day for her and her stuffed animals. He missed it, just like he missed other things, but he hoped he could still get some of that special time.

Maybe over the weekend, he would get the energy to pull himself out of bed and take her to Build-A-Bear. It wasn’t a special occasion, but he wanted to make it special. After all, this was his last long haul. After this run, he was officially done with his contract. He would now be driving only five days a week and be home every night. His truck was now paid for. It was his. That meant his life was back in his hands again. No more big companies pulling his strings.

He let out a yawn and scanned the road ahead of him. Nothing had changed. A long stretch of interstate lay in the glow of the headlights as the road stretched off endlessly into darkness. His eyelids were heavy and his body was growing stiff.

These long hauls, the cross-country runs, were nice at first, got him out to see much of the countryside, allowed him to see places that he otherwise probably would have never seen. He had traveled from the Grand Canyon up to Maine and every mountain road in between. There wasn’t much to the great U.S. that he hadn’t seen, so he decided it was time to hang up the saddle. His ride was over, or at least this part of it. Hell, it had been fun when he was a new driver, but that had been over ten years ago. He wasn’t that young man anymore. He had a family and they missed him as much as he missed them. He needed to get home.

Two weeks after his contract ended, he would start up with another company based out of his hometown. Smaller company, pay wasn’t as much, but he would be home every night and his weekends would be free and clear. He would be with his own truck, and if it didn’t work out, he could always go somewhere else. His contract was over. He was no longer tied by the shackles of a lease. He was free and, as he tried to wipe the sleep out of his eyes, he couldn’t think of anything better. There wasn’t anything he wanted more.

Up ahead, he could see the one-mile warning for exit 98. The Clock Tower… That was it. That was the name of the damned place at the exit. The diner was in a truck stop that was open twenty-four hours. He would be able to pull off, get some chow for his food tank and get some diesel for his fuel tank Then he’d settle in for a nice, long shower in one of their stalls.

Tomorrow, he would deliver the load, then hightail it to freedom. Free to drive the remaining hundred miles to home. He would be able to drop the the load at around two in the afternoon, so he would be pulling into his own driveway in time for supper.

As his blinker shouted in its rhythmic tick-tock tone, he started to ease his rig into the exit lane. He already felt the anticipation of getting home and sleeping in his own damn bed.

He looked over at the parking lot of the Clock Tower. The lot was full, but the little diner looked nearly empty. Most of the trucks were probably just idling, their inhabitants either asleep or occupied with some lot lizards.

Bruce nestled his rig midway to the back. He didn’t want everyone thinking he wanted some action, but he didn’t want too many people around him in the morning, waking him up before he was ready. He always preferred to sleep in, miss the morning traffic, and drive later than most other drivers.

Soon, he would be home. He just needed to drop off the trailer, take a short stint through a couple small towns, then he would pull into his own driveway. Bruce reached for the door. A Grand Slam sampler sounded good, and he was ready to shovel it down.

A small spider started to crawl down the inside of the window. It was just a small little thing, harmless, but Bruce still stopped and backed away. He never did like spiders. As a kid, anytime one would bite him, he would always break out in a rash. On more than one occasion, he had to be rushed to the hospital because of a bad reaction to the venom. His airways would close up and he would nearly pass out.

A small little spider, but he knew that little creature could kill him if he gave it a chance. He didn’t have one of his little pink pills with him to toss down, if needed.

Bruce looked around the cabin. In his passenger seat, there was a case for an audio book he had been listening to earlier. He was sure the person who lent it to him wasn’t going to like spider guts on the back of the case, but he grabbed it anyway.

He slammed the case against the window and slid it down, making sure the spider was thoroughly smashed, its insides making a smeared trail along his window. It was dead, guts splattered over the large name, Stephen King, and smeared across the image of a dome.

Bruce tossed the case back into the passenger seat and climbed out of the cab. “Damn, I hate spiders,” he mumbled under his breath.

* * * *

John didn’t know what woke him. He lay there, the little light from the streetlight outside giving him just enough illumination to make out dark shadows in his room. With the lights off, no one, other than himself, would ever be able to find anything as it was all just heaps of dark shapes at odd angles. In the little light, tree branch fingers danced across the walls. If he didn’t know better, he could imagine large shadow hands reaching across his room, looking through his stuff.

Yeah, like they would ever find anything worth a damn, he thought. All he had of value was his stash, the large bag he had just brought back from little Chicago, which was tucked nicely away in his closet under a pair of soiled undies that would turn anybody away.

The bud was safe. Ah, yes. The bud was safe.

“Precious sweet bud, let you ripen so fine. Precious sweet bud, I’ll make you mine,” John said in the small, dark bedroom of his apartment. A slight smile crept across his lips as he thought about the bag. He had tried to grow his own before, but it never dried right. He wasted a lot of seed and, in the end, taught himself it was just too much damn work when all he had to do was take a small little drive to Little Chi-Town and he would come back happy.

John felt a slight tingle on the hairs of his nose and rubbed at his upper lip. He turned his head, breaking free from his daze, to look at the envelope sitting on his dresser top. He could just see it, slightly hanging over the edge. Damn bitch probably put itching powder in the shit, he thought. When he had opened the envelope, the only thing written inside had been “Enjoy”. Now there were just faint traces of the white powder left.

And he had. He had never been a big fan of the “nose candy”, but was never one to turn away a good high when it came his way. He was just surprised to see it coming from Miss Psycho Queen. He guessed she still wasn’t going to take his “get lost” for an answer. Damn, why did he have to date the crazy ones. The ones who would never go away no matter how hard he tried.

He pushed himself up, sitting, placing his feet on the hardwood floor. It was cool against his skin, which felt good in the warm, stuffy heat of his place. He wished like hell he could afford a damn air conditioner, and thought about possibly stealing one from somebody’s window. He reached over and fumbled to turn on his basketball lamp. He had to fight with the little switch to get it to turn on, grumbling with himself as he fought with it. On his third attempt, the lamp finally clicked on, the light flooding the space.

Out of the corner of his eye, he swore he saw little black things scurrying out of sight. They had been at the corner of his vision, which made it hard for him to be sure. By the time he turned his head, any traces were gone. Probably figments of my imagination, he thought, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He didn’t have the cleanest of places, but at least it had never been one known for roaches. Still, he could have sworn he had seen something, but then it was gone, probably buried deep in one of the different piles of dirty clothes littering the floor of the small room. Well, if they had gone in there, they were surely dead by now.

Ugh, why the hell was he up in the middle of the damn night. He leaned forward and pulled himself up from the mattresses on the floor. His bedroom had the barest of essentials and the mess stretched wide. The mattresses on the floor, his clothes thrown about, trash littering the floor in the general direction of the kitchen area. He had a heavily worn, badly tattered couch that had stuffing coming out at various seems along the back edges. Across from it was his television. The only thing in his apartment worth a damn was his 37” flat-panel television that he was currently renting-to-own.

He looked through the open door of his bedroom, toward the living room. Still on, but in sleep mode, the television cast a soft glow. It was always the centerpiece of the apartment. The only thing that wasn’t old, tattered, and a piece of crap.

John stumbled across the room, walking over the piles of clothes as he made his way to the front hallway. His eyelids were heavy, and as he stumbled, he wondered why the hell he was even trying to make his way to the bathroom. The heavy pain in his stomach and the burning sensation coming from his bowels reminded him why as he stepped into the little bathroom and clicked on the light. It flashed a few times before coming to life.

He barely caught a glimpse of his pale reflection in the mirror as he stepped past it to the toilet. The seat was up—ah, the life of a bachelor—and he didn’t even worry about closing the door behind him. Keeping his eyes closed, he listened to the sound of water on water, feeling the easing release of the pressure that had been building up. Sometimes there was no greater joy.

As he finished and opened his eyes to flush, he noticed the red of the toilet water. It was dark crimson, similar to the life force coursing through his veins. That had better not be coming from him. He looked at it, studied it, trying to see if there were any way it could have come from the water itself. He reached forward and flushed. As the red liquid went spiraling down to unknown locations of the sewer, fresh, clear water replaced it.

“Ah, fuck me,” he said to himself. Last thing he wanted was to be pissing blood again.

John groggily stepped over to the sink to wash his hands. He wasn’t the most sanitary of persons, but he had been taught to do so as a child and it was one habit he had never broken.

However, he was stopped by the pale reflection looking back at him with deep bloodshot eyes and dark circles under them. His hair was greasier and more ruffled than usual. His lips, his face without a glimpse of color to them. He was never one to focus on himself, but he was sure that if he looked that way when he had gone to bed, he would have noticed. He looked like a dead man walking. How the hell could he have missed it?

Then there was the dried blood under his nose. Just a little stream of it coming from his right nostril. It was so tiny, as though he had a start to a nose bleed. However, before it had really progressed, it had stopped and now was scabbed over.

John leaned forward so he could get a better look into his nostril. He had a sudden itch, forcing him to quickly start rubbing his nose. The itching grew stronger, a tickle becoming like fire and nearly bringing tears to his eyes as he rubbed both inside and out of the nostrils. He tried to wipe the sleep from his eyes as he peered through the darkness.

He could barely make out what looked like a hair sticking out of his nose. It was a long, black hair that stuck out at an odd angle. He reached up, readying himself to pluck it out and the sharp pain that would follow.

As he prepared to grip the hair, it twitched and started to move. He pulled his hand away and watched it pull itself back into his nose, disappearing into the darkness of his nostril.

“What the…?” John whispered as he leaned closer to the glass. The itching sensation grew so unbearable, he wished he could just rub it until it bled and the skin was raw, peeling away.

He was tired. He just wanted to get back to his mattress and the model who had been sexually assaulting his dreams.

John let a smile start to spread across his face as he pulled himself back from the mirror. He reached down and flushed the toilet. As he got ready to turn out the light, he glanced in the mirror, seeing the hair had reappeared, longer this time. It moved, shifting, then pulled itself back into his nostril.

Then the owner of the hair emerged. A small spider crawled out of his nose. John stood there, watching, his hand hovering just above the light switch. He was too afraid to move or pull his hand back as the spider perched on his upper lip.

John stopped watching it through the mirror and tried to look down at his upper lip. His eyes burned from the strain of focusing on an object so close, and all he could make out was the large black shape.

How had the thing been in his damn nose? How long was it up there? How had it survived when he had been squeezing and rubbing his nose when it itched? Ugh, even worse, what would have happened had he squashed the damned thing while it was in there? His stomach turned at the thought of it and he had to stifle a gag.

Keeping his eyes focused on the spider, John lowered his hand away from the light switch and moved back to the mirror. He could feel the spider’s legs on his upper lip. It shuddered as he moved, as though it were trying to surf him like a wave.

John looked back at the mirror, the black shape still sitting on his upper lip. A fucking spider. He could barely fathom how it had come out of his nose. He leaned over the sink, figuring it was time to try and knock the thing off and wash it down the drain.

He turned on the faucet and fumbled for the stopper so the sink would slowly fill with water. He didn’t turn the water on too fast because he didn’t want the sound of it to be too loud and scare the spider. With his luck, it would start crawling all over his face. However, so far, it seemed to be content with just sitting there.

John started to raise his hand, getting ready to shake his head and knock it off at the same time. He rocked back and forth briefly to get himself prepared, then swung.

The spider quickly ran back into his nose. It was again on fire with the itching sensation. However, this time, he could actually feel it moving around in his head. It ran deeper into his nose, and he could feel it forcing its way back into his airway.

John coughed, the lump moving up and down his throat. He gagged, trying to get it out. He put his finger down his throat to try and force himself to throw up, but the spider fought against him. It kept running around his throat. Tears came to his eyes as he tried to cough as hard as he could. His throat burned and became raw, but still nothing.

John dropped down to his knees in front of his toilet and reached his arms out, as though he had been drinking and was now praying to the porcelain gods. He tried to heave, but nothing came up. He could barely breathe and couldn’t make himself gag anymore.

Leaning onto the toilet, he wanted to cry. His body felt like it was burning up. He imagined he could feel the heat emanating off him. He was too hot. He looked at his arm, expecting it to be red. It was still pasty and pale.

He thought about the pot he had smoked earlier in the night. Damn, he hoped someone hadn’t laced his shit. The last thing he wanted to worry about was that.

Please, he thought to himself, let it just be one hell of a motherfucking bad trip.

A lump formed under his arm near his elbow. It just seemed to appear from nowhere, but protruded out grotesquely. It was nearly three-quarters of an inch in diameter and a half-inch tall, pulling the skin tight and making it red.

Suddenly, the lump broke through the skin. Another spider appeared, crawling its way out of the skin and onto his arm. Blood dripped from the hole as the spider started to run down his arm. John quickly started to claw at the spider with his other hand, trying to kill it. He nearly got it a couple times, but it was quick and kept dodging his attempts. It turned around and quickly ran back into the hole it had made in his arm.

He clawed at the hole, trying to tear away at the skin and get the spider out. His long, dirty nails pulled at his arm, but the spider continued to run underneath his skin and toward his hand. When it made it to his wrist, John quickly felt around above the sink, trying to find his razor. His arm, blood running down from his efforts to claw out the spider, was draped over the toilet.

He could barely see above the ceramic porcelain of the sink to see where he was reaching, but he heard things falling as he felt around—his toothbrush, the large heavy sound of the shaving cream splashing into the water filling the sink.

John finally felt his hand clench around the plastic handle of the razor. It was a cheap dollar shaver, but he hoped that if he dug enough, he would get the damned spider out. Damn the things. He wanted them out. He hated spiders. More than anything else, he hated spiders.

He brought the razor to his wrist and was about to start tearing away at the flesh when he noticed there were no longer any lumps, anything moving. His skin was clear. An unhealthy pale cast to it, but it was clear of anything hiding beneath it. He still had blood trickling down his arm, but the spider seemed to be gone. Same with the spider in his throat. He didn’t feel as though something was blocking his airway.

He reached out to the sink and used it to help him stand.

He still didn’t feel quite sure of himself and felt like he might still be trapped in a nightmare somehow. That he never truly woke up or he might just be caught on a bad acid trip.

He looked at himself in the mirror. He still looked like death warmed over. He was tired and wanted to go back to bed. It was calling for him, like a siren song reeling him in.

His ear tickled. As he reached up to pick at it, he felt the familiar sensation of the spider’s legs on his skin. He shook his head, trying to get at it as he felt it starting to crawl toward his face, its legs leaving small stinging sensations along the unshaven roughness of his skin. Then, after one big shake, he felt its release and saw it land on the floor.

It just lay there. Before it could regain itself, John quickly stomped down on the cursed thing. Strangely, he expected it to squish between his toes, as he was still barefoot. Instead, he barely felt anything. He pulled his foot away, seeing black dust where the remains of the spider should have been.

Pulled into the Lair…

Here is my latest interview as I was featured today on Ursula K. Raphael’s literary blog “AstraDaemon’s Lair.” She reviewed Into Darkness and also asked a few questions, but you can read all of that on her site.

AstraDaemon’s Lair

Writing Advice: What it is to be a writer…

In my last post of 2017 I mentioned one of my resolutions as being to help authors find their voice. For the first writing tip of 2018 I want to start doing just that. So… what does that mean?

It’s a broad question and a hefty challenge and the obvious answer to finding a writers voice is to do just that… write. Write your heart out and put it into every word you write wether it be horror, comedy, sci-fi, or romance.

Let’s start by analyzing what it is to be a writer. I recently shared a meme that a writer is someone “capable of transforming caffeine into books.” Google’s definition of a writer is “a person who writes books, stories, or articles as a job or regular occupation.”

So what is your definition? Think about what does being a writer mean to you? Are your writing because your under the illusion that you’ll be rich and famous? You should know that the modern writers average gross income is less than what it would cost to by a used car.

Writer’s write. That should always come second. To be a great writer, you must first start by reading. Read and read a lot. Don’t steal, but writers write with various voices and even the same writers’s voice will change depending on what you are writing or reading.

I reference Stephen King a lot in my advice, but that largely is because I write mainly horror and he writes a lot of it. His voice influences a lot of my work. King has said, “stylistic copying recurs, always when the writer encounters some new and wonderful mode of expression that shows him a new way of seeing and saying.” He refers to how often it can happen especially in a new writers development and helps as they find their own.

I refer to this so that as you write and develop your own voice, you also take time and experiment, experience and play with your stories…

Getting back to the point, and to bring in this new year, I want you to think about writing as a writer. Write and enjoy. Let the words flow and get the story out. Give birth to those ideas spinning around in your head and send them out into the world.

Writing Advice: Dealing with Technology

Last week, I write a blog on the intricacies of being a writing while dealing with a busy, chaotic life. As promised, I am following up that blog with this one where I go into some detail with the technology that I use. Since the cornerstone of last weeks piece was on using your phone as it is the one device you always have with you, this week we will go into some of the apps that helps to facilitate this practice.

The three that I know of immediately and are designed to write in as word processors are Microsoft Word (IOS/Mac and Android/PC compatible), Apple’s Pages (IOS/Mac compatible but offers a web interface), and Google Docs (IOS/Mac and Android/PC compatible). As I am not as familiar with the latest version of Google Docs, I am using the IOS Docs app to write this blog.

There was are apps to try, some specifically meant for writing and some are just feature rich note apps. I tend to stay away from these for a few reasons, the first of which is that with any app developed and uses a cloud platform you must always be aware of security. Be mindful of who can see your data. If a smaller company is offering a free app that allows for cloud sync, How is that company making money to support that app? If the app isn’t the product that makes the company money, then you and your data become the product. Secondly, if the app isn’t making any money, then what happens when the app gets shut down or turned off? All your data could be lost. Third, before you start using any app, look into how you are going to export your data? What I mean is, after writing your novel, How are you going to get it out of the app and into a print ready format? It would really suck to get done writing your thousand word masterpiece and have to copy and paste it into another program. Especially since by doing so you would probably have lost all your formatting and will have to go back through re-paragraphing the whole thing.

So that being said, I will now focus on the big 3, and l’ll be honest, Pages is my favorite by far. It is the reason that when I had switched away from an IPhone for a year, that I came back when my contract was up. Android has some great qualities, but I am first and foremost a writer and Pages works better than anything else I’ve used.

Since I mentioned my favorite, I will delve into my least favorite first. Google Docs…

My first issue with Google Docs came shortly after creating this document. You will probably not notice that there are no tabbed paragraphs as WordPress does not typically allow for them, but there are none in the original document as well. That is because Google does not allow for you to tab on your phone. I don’t know if the Android version is any different, but in the IOS version, all the ways that you are allowed to tab in Word and Pages are not available. I tried going deeper into the settings and what still not able to find any. That is a huge drawback, as it would mean that unless you are writing for an exclusive Kindle only release, you would have to re-paragraph everything in another program in preparation for print.

I will admit, that the cloud feature is nice. It instantly syncs from PC to App and back with very little delay, however, if there is no data connection, the App can get weird and sometimes not save work that has been done even once a connection is reestablished.

I do feel that Docs is a decent note taking application, but would not trust it for much more.

Then there is Microsoft Word…

This would be my first pick and favorite had I not had some issues with it in both past and present. It is a multi platform tool that is excellent to write in, has all the features a writer needs and saves into an industry recognized file format used by everyone. Even if you write in another application, at some point you will probably need to bring it into word to put the final touches onto it. (Microsoft Word is not available on any Amazon Kindle devices)

So why not use it all the time? I don’t trust the ‘save.’ How Word handles saving documents is awkward sometimes and due to its handling I have lost whole chapters expecting something to be saved to the cloud but wasn’t there later. It does have ‘versioning’ which allows you to go back to different versions of a document later, but there are also glitches that have required me to save as a new document because Word was having some issue reconciling saved copies. This has also taken me down paths when I had to reopen a book I was writing and was not sure which copy was the latest and correct one.

Word with Onedrive tries to help with this. The autosave should keep your one document saved to the cloud and always up to date, however I have had the same issues still present themselves as previously mentioned.

Which brings me to Apple’s Pages and why I will use this as my first choice.

Pages is a simplified writing platform that hides most the features that make it comparable to Word until you need them (though they can be hard to find sometimes). It saves to the cloud and I have never had an issue with it auto saving. Documents are updated on all devices with very little delay. I can finish a sentence on my phone, walk over to my laptop and sit down and there is the file updated without me needing to reopen the file. To tab to start a new paragraph, I do have to hold down on the screen until the ‘right click’ menu pops up and I choose Insert>Tab, but that is only a minor inconvenience that is easy to get used to.

The downsides of Pages is that it is IOS and Mac only. If you are on Android and PC you have to use the web versions of these programs. The web version is okay, but can have a delay if the connection is bad. Plus you would have to have an ICloud account to use the service, though I do believe anyone can set one up so that you can still use the service.

For any questions, or suggestions, please comment.

If you have your own particular favorite, I would love to know about it as I love playing around and trying new apps. The only one I am against is Scrivener due in part to it being overpriced when their are comparable programs.

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Writing Advice: Dealing with Life

There are many problems that come with being a writer and the largest obstacle that I find is life. Unless your work is in high demand, being a writer usually means working a day job and then finding time to sneak in writing while also balancing a social life. If you have kids, then this is an additional obstacle to overcome. Okay, I will never consider my kid(s) to be an obstacle to overcome, but you understand when I say that they do require much of your time.

So how do we get past these barriers? Well, the hardest part of giving any advice is that there will never be a one size that fits all. Meaning, any advice that I give will be different than what works for you. That still doesn’t stop it from being an alternative for you to consider and possibly even adapt into your own writing life. In fact, the current tip I am going to off comes from a variation off of one given by the master himself, Stephen King.

“Books are the perfect entertainment: no commercials, no batteries, hours of enjoyment for each dollar spent. What I wonder is why everybody doesn’t carry a book around for those inevitable dead spots in life.” – Stephen King

King has often mentioned on how he keeps books with him so that whenever he has downtime or is left waiting somewhere, he pulls out the book and reads. King is an avid reader, as am I, but I read mostly through audiobooks while I’m driving. I love to read, and it’s why I do the day job that I do as it affords me a lot of time to listen to audiobooks. It also gives me a lot of time to write, even if I’m writing outside the box.

See, I write on my phone. This right now is currently being typed on my phone. My current novel that I have completed 71,000 words has nearly all been written on my phone.

If you ask Chase Jarvis, world renowned photographer, he would tell you the best camera you have is the one you have on you. That was even the title to his book which features many photos taken from his IPhone.

So, I am saying the best device you have to write on is the one you always have with you. I use Apple Pages only because I’ve had issues with Microsoft Word and they’re save synchronization, but it is still a great writing program. No matter what writing you do, I would recommend something with an automated cloud back up. All of this, so that when you want to write, you can on the device you have at the ready.

Learning to write on your phone is not the only trick to being a writer with a very busy life. Not only that, it does take practice and a lot of patience. Autocorrect can be your best friend but it can also be your worst enemy. You have to watch what you right, not only the current word, but sometimes the whole sentence because with ‘new’ and ‘better’ features, autocorrect will now also fix other words than the one you just typed.

It is partially because of autocorrect issues, but also because the inherent issue of writing with limited time restrains that teaches use to write in smaller segments. When your life is busy and chaotic, it is hard to find a long enough time period to just sit down and write out 1,500 to 5,000 words a day. That baby needs to be fed, or someone at work needs you to do a task, but whatever the distraction is, it always seems to be constant.

So my next suggestion for writing with a busy life is to not get caught up in writing all at once. It may be hard, especially when your not used to it and it can be very frustrating, but getting used to writing small segments allows for writing on the go. There are times when I get to write one to two paragraphs here and then later return to write another two paragraphs. This paragraph you are reading right now, I started it this morning. Then I had to run and get medicine for my sick boy and go to work. I’m not returning to it after being at work for a few hours and getting a chance to take a break. By not just worrying about getting one stretch to do all my writing, I’m able to continue to work on my latest story/novel/blog whenever I am able to find the time to add a sentence or two.

So to summarize…

If you are writer dealing with a chaotic life, write when you can. Don’t get caught up in trying to reach your goals all at once as often the time to do so just isn’t there. Also, write on what you can, when you can. Use what is available. If you just have a pad of paper with you or even a tape recorder, use what you are comfortable with to write what you can. Focus on the minutes of the days, not the hours to get in that sentence or two.

Next week, I plan to cover in more detail some of the apps and tech that I use. If you have any suggestions or would like me to approach a particular topic, please leave a comment.

Until next time, write on!

Writing Advice: Birth of an Idea

So…Where do ideas come from? I get asked this a lot and I don’t have to read too many interviews with other authors to know that it is the one single most often asked question. Everyone always wants to know, and I can understand why. Not only does it give you insight into the mind of another author, and they would like the insight. Many others ask just because they want the simple answer of where such tales come from as they can’t grasp it themselves.

First off, I should get past one very large misconception about writers, ideas, and their characters. Just because a writer puts words on paper about a twisted psychopath who goes around carving up victims, it does not mean he himself would ever do such a thing. Plots, ideas for plots, and characters are not a manifestation of an authors hidden deep desires. If so, Stephen King has some serious issues and would have long since put in prison if he was to ever act on many of his stories. There are some seriously sick and twisted people out there and while they may reference a certain authors work for things that they do, the people were sick and twisted all their own.

Now that I got that off my chest, back to the topic…

 So, where do they come from?

An idea can come from many places and from anywhere. Stories are all around us, you just need to look, see, react, and then put words down. Oh, and if your story sounds like that movie you just saw, or some book someone tells you about after you already started, don’t worry. The first thing to get over with when coming up with any idea is, and here comes the blasphemy, there are no original ideas anymore. Think of Hollywood with all the remakes. There are reasons why the same old stories are always retold. Because when you break it down to basics, they have all been done.Remember, the basic stories when they are broken down, are; man vs. society, man vs nature, man vs. man, and man vs himself. There you go, the four story types (I have to fight the sci/fi fan in me that want’s to add man vs. machine but that really does fall under man vs. nature). Everything you can write will fall into the big four categories.

So if everything has been written, why write? Well,…that shouldn’t be the question you are asking yourself. If the desire to write is there, then the questions “why write?” should never come up. Get past that, you want to write, it is in your blood. You just need to get past the stumbling blocks that you put in your own way. Don’t ask why write, but instead focus on, okay, then what should I write? Get back to that question and here’s why.

Just because it is nearly impossible to have a truly original idea, don’t stress and instead create an interesting story that pulls you in. Create characters that you like and want to hang out with every day. Build a story line that is unique to you. By doing that, you will have just taken that story that has been done a thousand times and not only made it your own, but you have put your own spin on it enough that it is in its own way, original.

 So now how do we find our non-original, original idea…?

This is where life comes in. I find that the best way to write is to look at the world around you, find a situation you want to write about, think about how you can create a character that will suit the situation, and go. Now, I also feel that because I write horror, this is a little easier, but we will look at the way I am about to describe in two ways, one to come up with a horror idea for it, but then also look to see how we can develop it into a romance. Please, be gentle…and let the sexual innuendo begin.

So look at life. That is step one. Step two, ask questions. This doesn’t mean to go around and attack everyone with questions. Ask questions to yourself about the life that is around you.

Example;

Step one, look around at life. Just the other day while I was at the coffee shop writing my next novel, an artist was there hanging up some of her work. A piece she hung was a wood carving of a Ouija board that had a woman’s face engraved into it. My first reaction was how beautiful the piece was, but my second was, I started to ask myself some questions.

My first question, who is this a picture of? Then the filmmaker in me asked, well did she pose for it, was the face done from memory, and did she get the release signed for it, did a model pose for the picture? Then my questions grew dark, what if she didn’t pose. What if this is a picture of someone who had upset the artist and she drew her out of spite. It’s a Ouija board, what if when she carved the board, it pulled the woman’s soul into the board and now she was trapped in there. How would the woman ever get out, what had the woman done to upset the artist so? What if the artist did it to other people, and what if she did it to me? If I used the board as a Ouija board would I communicate with the person whose would was trapped…

See where the story developed. I started with just seeing an excellent piece of art being placed on the wall, and within minutes a story had developed. Now, let’s try to do a romantic comedy about this piece.

We start again with the piece of art. It is a woman’s face. So who was the artist and was the artist in love with the subject and was it done out of an interest? Did the artist start with just hiring posing subjects and the. As this woman was posing he started talking to her. He’s nervous around woman maybe so he has a hard time talking to her. Maybe he’s autistic so he is awkward. She finds it of putting and is initially thrown off. She leaves but then later she sees the peace and the beauty. Maybe she goes back to him and …

Okay, I don’t write romance, but see how we started off with just a situation, asked a few questions and the story just quickly developed.

Let’s look at another situation that can related to recently and was the inspiration for my short story, “Black Friday.” This seems like it is such ripe pickings for a story and I am surprised there are not more of them out there. Let me start by painting the scene.

I had been working in retail and of course, I had to be at the story early in the morning for black friday to be there before the store opened. I arrived an hour early largely because I had been coming back from out of town and just went straight to the store rather than going home, sleeping for a half hour and then going. I was tired. I myself felt like a zombie, but when I arrived to the store, that was nothing compared to the people I saw lined up outside of the store.

And since I was there early and no one could see my work uniform under the many layers of coats, I got out and mingled with the shoppers. I found out some had only just arrived, but many of them had been there all night. Interesting…

Later, once I got into the store and we prepared for the people to come in, I saw it from the other perspective. Here we were on the inside of a well fortified building and we were preparing for a war. It was almost like we were getting ready for a riot with how we planned for the crowd control. The whole situation was very…horror movie like with how we were preparing for an attack. And what was going to attack us, they were only shoppers. The people we helped every day, so what was there to be afraid of?

But what if the people were zombies. They had been so tired, I was tired. What if it was zombies out there and when we opened those doors, pulled down the large black plastic we had put up so people couldn’t see inside, we would be attacked by zombies rushing the store. How would we know? How could we tell if they were zombies before we opened? The people I had mingled with had been near zombie like before, how would anyone tell the difference from then and now?

Life is the greatest inspiration for art. Look around and you will find many different things to write about. It should never be a question of where ideas come from. The question is alway show to tell them and finding the right character to carry the tale.

A friend recently reminded me of one of my first short stories. It was a simple story about a boy who commits suicide and the story is told within the form of a suicide note. I learned not to write in this fashion while you are still a student in high school as you stop asking questions and you will suddenly find yourself being asked a bunch of questions. It was not a fun experience, but I do remember some of the elements of how that story came about.

The story was developed another way. It came from a concept. Part of the concept was I wanted to write this sad story about a kid in the form of a suicide note, but I also wanted to play on other elements such as teenage drunk driving. I wanted to really paint this dire situation, really get a person to get to know the character and write it in a first person. The main focus in this story was I had a character I wanted the people to meet and then put him in a situation.

We will talk about more of that style in a later blog as we go into further details on building characters. The reason why I mention it is sometimes, the story comes with the character first. Sometimes the story is the character, and you find situations to build around him.

Remember, stories are everywhere.

Writing Advice: Dealing with Doubt

When I finished my third book, I was proud of it.  It had taken me a while to write it, but in the end it was the book I had wanted to write.  I felt redeemed in my choices when it had the best reception from any of my previous books. Then I started writing my latest novel, and the doubt kicked it.  

For all the success that “Caught in the Web” has had and all the praise, it has actually made me doubt myself and my writing more than I had ever before.  My first draft, I ruined the ending because I pulled back from the direction I had always planned on.  There were/are aspects that I was so unsure of that I wrote some alternative versions of chapters and sections as I just wasn’t sure anymore what was scary, what would scare my readers.  After three books where I have had consistent reviews on my ability to terrify and create nightmares, for the first time I doubted if I could do that again.

So how do we get past that?   How do you as a writer, work through your doubt to keep writing? 

For starters, don’t get rid of the doubt, and continue to write.  Sometimes it is good to doubt and question.  While I doubted my writing, I kept going no matter how much I wasn’t sure of myself.  The key was just that, to keep writing.  Even if I doubted if what I was writing was any good, I still continued on.

The key to continuing to write is to also be patient.  Keep writing because you can still go back and read it later.  Keep writing because your first draft is not the end product.  Keep writing because no matter what you put down on paper, even in the doubt, you might push yourself to write something that you would have before.  Because I was doubting myself, I paid more attention to my writing style and analyzed it.  It is also because of my doubt over the course of writing my latest novel that I decided not to rush as much as I had in my previous novel and because of that, I have come across some new ideas that work great with my original ending.Sometimes doubting ones self is not a path to destruction as long as you do not let doubt rule you.  When you come to a point of complete indecision due to doubt, then you have moved into an unhealthy area. 

So how do we move past completely indecisive doubt?  This can be hard and for everyone it will always be different.  The best advice I can give is to find either someone or a group that you know and trust.  Work in the group to bounce ideas off of.  Find beta readers to get feedback, and not just people who are going to say “it’s great” to everything you write.  If you have an editor that you trust who is will to read your work, get with them, see how they feel. 

But keep writing .  Always keep writing.  If you are having doubt about a particular work, then write a short story or work on another project.  The best thing though is to always keep writing because writing, just like exercising helps build ‘muscle.’  Though in the writers sense it is a mental muscle and should always be stretched and worked.

Writing Advice: Dealing with Writer’s Block

Writers Block. That dread pirate that all writers fear. Writers block is that annoying absence of words spewing forth to the page as a writer is trying to write. To a writer It can be more than a little annoying when they are not there. You are a writer, you want to be able to sit down and write. A writer dedicates their time to it and for some it may be that late night when the kids are put down to sleep and for others it may be that few minutes between work shifts or between classes. Whenever it is, when a writer wants to write, they expect and want the words to be there. It is almost like a race car driver preparing to race only to realize that their cars out of gas. They have all the tools, just don’t have to fuel to go.

Many writers fear writers block. They worry that they might not be able to ever writer again. As irrational as it may be, that does happen. Sometimes, writers will start to go back and edit what they have already written and then get lost in a cycle of not feeling good enough to continue and will just continue editing and rewriting in a loop. It doesn’t matter. Wether a writer fears the block or not, it does happen to all of us. Here is some of my advice on how to get past the writers block.

The largest piece of advice that I can offer is not to fear writers block. I would even say embrace it. Just because a writers is not writing, it dodge’s mean the story is not developing. I feel that some writer’s experience writer’s block because their subconscious is telling them that something isn’t working. That is not to say that what the writer is working on is bad. Just that what they are writing is not exciting them enough to continue or there is some element that is not clicking.

I find that when I hit a writer’s block and it is as I am preparing to start a new chapter, that if I just let it go for a while, an amazing idea might strike me. Sometimes just going to take a shower, or a walk, and I won’t actively be trying to brain storm on my latest book, that there will be that moment. Just an odd thought sometimes, and at first it won’t even seem like it would relate to the character I am working with. Still, that idea is there and it is festering, cultivating until the time is write and everything crashes together. Then it is a race to the computer to get that idea from my head to the keys as fast as possible.

The key to that method is having confidence that the idea will come, and the confidence in yourself that if you give it time, it will hit you and make whatever you had originally planned for the chapter much the better for waiting. Confidence, a dirty word amongst writers, but that is the key in nearly everything what we do. Wait for it, and have confidence that the idea will come. 

This has a similar quality to the advice above. Not in the fashion that all a writer needs to do is wait, but that sometimes just getting the writer’s mind away from where they are stuck, it can inspire them. If a writer finds that they are stuck in a certain area, maybe take a break from it and either write a short story, start another project or even work on another part of the book.

It can be hard for a writer to take a break from the project they are working on. They are caught up in the story, killing themselves to get the words down. They want to keep going at it and can be on an amazing streak. It may seem like the creativity is just continuing to come. Then they hit that wall and it seems like everything is blocked off.

If the writer doesn’t want to take a break, sometimes they will try to continue writing. This can be bad. The words are flowing, but it comes out stiff. It is rough, and in the end it something the writer is not happy with. I have had chapters that I have written and then regretted. The argument if of course, well you were still writing, but what I was writing was crap. I guess, it can be said in this argument that yes, later, I did go back and fix it. I still am not a fan of just keep writing as I have found the other methods to be better and a more productive use of my time.

So instead, it might have been better just to start writing something else. Maybe work on a short story that they have had kicking around. Or, if it is just that part that is sticking the writer, they could even choose to work on a later part, another chapter. If the writer has their project outlined out, maybe work on another chapter. I am not a big fan of this method. I feel the story should be written in order and kept organic, but there are writers out there that can do this. I am amazed at how well they can do it, but their novels are very different from what I write. Jack Campbell, a writer of one of my favorite sci/fi series “Beyond the Frontier” has said that he will often write his novels out of order. If you read his work, you can see why this works for him as his fiction is very episode like so it feels like a collection of moments that work together as an excellent cohesive story.

The key to all of these elements is that the writer is working on something else to distract them from where they are stuck. Yes, they kept writing, you, keep writing. That is what is important, not to get frustrated and to keep writing. I know there is that fear that you might not return to it and it is a justifiable fear. Many writers, when they take a break, they give up on their writing project. That is on you, the writer. You have to have the drive and commitment. If you don’t, then you were not going to finish the project and that taking the break is just the excuse you are using not to finish. All I can say is don’t. If you keep writing, write something else, a blog, whatever you want to write but keep writing. If you keep the words flowing, you will eventually return to that story. Inspiration will hit you, you may just be washing the dishes and it will hit you, well if the character was washing the dishes in that scene, that would make sense for that next event that you were waiting to happen, happen. Have faith in yourself. We all face it, it is how you tackle it that defines the writer you will be.

Then of course there is always the last ditch effort. Get frustrated, and start the segment with a long sequence of curse words. For anyone who has read my work, they can probably identify that chapter. Hey, it worked, and I made it work for the character, and it probably turned out to be one of my better comical moments in my work.

 – Originally posted in 2015