A Call To Arms…Er, Something

I have been incredibly lax about posting here lately, but October was a busy month for me and I anticipate November will be the same. For starters, last month Dark Tales: eVolume One was made free on Smashwords midway through the month and I saw an increased number of downloads for that ebook. It made me step back and take a look at my product more closely. I was getting decent downloads with an okay cover and vague blurbs – but what kind of numbers would I get if I switched out the cover for something professionally designed and posted better descriptions?

Well, I did both toward the end of the month and saw my downloads increase. Then, I took the stories I’d written last month and put them together in a second volume. I wanted to release that ebook collection on October 28 in time for Halloween, but found myself hitting all kinds of roadblocks on the way. Dark Tales: eVolume Two was released two days late instead and I was floored by the response. After two hours of it being live, the collection had tripled my usual daily download rate. And after linking volumes one and two together as a series on Smashwords, both eVolumes quickly surpassed Indie Spirit Press’s other title, Preppy Little Liars, in downloads. Yes, my ebooks are free so that might have something to do with it. And yes, the holiday was probably another big booster. But people were downloading Dark Tales: eVolume One long before Halloween so I don’t think that’s the only reason it’s doing well.

More importantly, my ebooks are now selling on Amazon when they weren’t before. My numbers aren’t huge at either retailer, but I’m seeing a steady increase in sales and downloads so that is a very nice feeling.

But you know what would be better? More downloads. More reviews. More word of mouth. And that’s where you lovely blog readers come in. I’ve been so grateful for the support you’ve all shown me every time I post an excerpt here or a free fiction story – it means a lot to get the comments and blog follows. Unfortunately, many readers won’t know this blog exists or that I exclusively post here so the feedback on this blog doesn’t reach them.

A lot of readers, when looking to purchase books for their ereaders and smartphones, still look for good, quality reviews to help determine if a book is worth their time or not. If I want to reach a wide range of readers (and I do), I need more downloads. I need more reviews. So my plea to those of you reading this post is this: if you’ve read any of the excerpts I’ve posted here for either volume of Dark Tales and enjoyed them, please head on over to Smashwords or Amazon and leave a review. If you haven’t read all of the pieces in either volume, you can still review, just be sure to note that you’re only commenting on the story you did read in your review. And if you’ve read my stuff and aren’t wild about it, still leave a review. I won’t know what needs improvement if none of my readers gives me quality feedback. I write for you guys – I want to know whether or not the stories are resonating with you.

Another thing I’m going to ask is for more downloads. Both volumes of Dark Tales are on Smashwords for free at the moment. I was going to price both at .99 to match Amazon starting November 1, but then decided against it. For one thing, most of you didn’t even know the first volume was free in the first place and I was too busy the day of the second volume’s release to announce it’s free status for the day. So I think I’ll leave both free throughout the month of November to give readers old and new a chance to sample me without investing a dime.

But book covers aren’t cheap (okay, mine kind of are, but that’s for a later post) and the more I write and release, the more those costs add up. Dark Tales: eVolume’s One and Two are on sale for .99 at Amazon as stated above. I think for a collection of short stories, that’s a very reasonable price. What I’m asking of you, dear reader, is if you’ve read my stuff and liked it, please consider downloading the paid copies from Amazon. I know not everyone has a Kindle, but the sales would go a long way in ensuring I can continue to purchase quality covers for the Dark Tales series and any other fiction I decide to publish through Indie Spirit Press.

I also ask that if you know people who love horror or thrillers or general crime fiction, please pass the links to my work along and encourage these readers to download and review. Tweet about the books, post links on your blogs, talk about them in your newsletters – whatever works best for you. And I’d be happy to return the favor for any writer who blurbs me or sends readers my way. Indie Spirit Press is all about writers helping writers whether they are indie published, traditionally published, or somewhere in between (gotta love those hybrids!). Think of all the good karma points you’ll receive if you help get my work out there 🙂

Last but not least, if you enjoy the stories posted here by either myself or Amber Turner and you feel the information about self-publishing here is of value, please consider using the donate button over on the sidebar of this blog. You can give as much, or as little, as you’d like. Every little bit helps when it comes time to hire good cover designers and the like. We strive to release good, professional quality content, but that takes a lot of money we don’t yet have. So anything given would be deeply appreciated – and we will look into giving some nice donor gifts to those who offer their support.

Thank you again to everyone who follows this blog and to everyone who reads (and comments on and/or favorites) the stories.

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Excerpt: Lost and Found from Dark Tales: eVolume Two by Elle Chambers

Lost and Found goes back to November 2012 and is actually a salvaged scene from my scrapped first draft of my first supernatural suspense novel, The Man in White. The novel was set back in the ‘60s and Mr. Jones, my Big Bad (to steal a phrase from the Buffyverse), originally started as a traveling preacher from Georgia with a predilection for brutality—and small children. He’d go from small Southern town to small Southern town, teaching Sunday school classes to children twelve and under, and then when he’d find one that struck his fancy, he’d kidnap and murder him or her. (He wasn’t very particular about gender in my first draft.) My premise became, “What if Mr. Jones tried this on a West Indian child from the Louisiana bayou, right in the heart of hoodoo-land, but the child escaped? And what if this child’s family was connected to primal energy, something old and more evil than Jones himself, and he was made to pay for his crime? And what if after he’s put to death for his sins, he comes back connected to his victim?”

 

It was an ambitious novel to say the least (so ambitious it needed to be split into two books or risk being the length of The Stand) and I really didn’t have a clue how to start so I just wrote the first thing that popped into my head. This is a cleaned up version of that writing session.

 

 

He took the knife and ran it along the edge of his belt. The belt strap was black leather, thick and worn; the scratching sound the two materials made as they came together echoed throughout the deserted room.

 

He ignored the whimpering mass in the corner. Soon, she wouldn’t make a peep. She’d be little more than a blissful memory.

 

But first he would play. Taking her right now, like this, her fear turning her into a defeated mess, was no fun. He needed her to need to live. She wouldn’t, of course, but he didn’t see the harm in letting her believe otherwise. At least for a while. And if she was good, he might consider keeping her around a bit longer.

 

He untied the girl, removing the shackles from her wrists. She looked up at him with wide, watery eyes—he could tell she didn’t know what to make of this.

 

He knelt down beside her and kissed her forehead, relishing in the shiver he felt course through her. He could almost taste her adrenaline on his lips. He took his tongue and ran it across his mouth to really savor his handiwork.

 

“Please,” she whimpered. “Please, Mr. Jones—please let me go. I swear I won’t tell anyone about what happened.”

 

Mr. Jones smiled and ran his hand down the side of her face.

“I can’t do that, darlin’.” His sweet, Georgian accent drawled out the last word and to Josephine’s ears, almost sounded like a song. “I can’t let you go yet. First, I need you to do something for me.”

 

“What?”

 

He placed the knife against her lips and smiled, baring all of his teeth. “Run.”

 

Mr. Jones got up and stepped to the side. He folded his arms across his chest and leaned one shoulder against a wall.

 

At first, Josephine sat hunched on the floor. She didn’t move; she stared at him like he was a puzzle she was trying to work out.

 

He looked at his watch. “Tick tock, tick tock. Time’s a-wastin’.”

 

Sensing this was a trap, but knowing that if she could even risk the possibility of escape she’d take it, Josephine leapt from the floor and raced through the room. The basement was dark and full of old furniture. She could barely see where she was going and nearly tripped over an old coffee table. She strained her ears to hear over the pounding in her head, listening for footsteps. He wasn’t following her.

 

Her legs were weak from squatting on the ground for how many ever days she was chained up. She lost track of time days ago. Or was it weeks? God help her if it was longer than that. Her white cotton panties, the only bottoms she had on, were soiled—he’d forgotten to bring her the bed pan this morning. Or maybe he didn’t forget; maybe he finally decided to kill her after all so there was no need to account for proper hygiene.

 

The memory of him with his hand in her personal places, bathing her with a moist rag, almost made her vomit. She steeled herself. She had to find her way out. But which way was which? And what would she do if she did make it out of what she assumed was his house?

 

A bright yellow light shone in the distance. She squinted through the dark and her blurry eyes adjusted enough to make out something in front of her—a window. It was face level; it was her salvation. She ran harder than she ever ran before and reached up to the pane. It opened from the bottom. All she needed to do was somehow unlock the latches above it and push. She stood on her tiptoes and went to work on her escape, grunting through gritted teeth.

 

The window was stuck.

 

She frantically searched around for something, anything, to stand on. A few feet away sat an old toy chest. She dragged it over to the window and clambered up on it, gripping the windowsill so as not to fall. She continued listening for sounds of Mr. Jones, but didn’t hear anything. For some reason, that unnerved her more than if she’d heard him moving around.     

 

She pounded on the top of the window to loosen it up. Then she grabbed the bottom of the window and pushed. It creaked open and warm tears slipped down her face. She pushed again with all her might, but her tired arms gave out.

 

“Oh, God!” she screamed. She no longer cared about taking the Lord’s name in vain the way her mama warned her not to do.

 

She was going to die if she didn’t get this window open. She knew it as sure as she knew the sky was blue and the grass was green.

 

Josephine took a breath and pushed on the window again, praying for help. The window inched up just enough for her to get her tiny torso through. Steadying herself, she pushed herself up and managed to drag her body out onto the ledge.

 

The window wasn’t that high up from the ground and she was grateful for that small favor. She let herself drop down to the soppy wet grass. It must have rained recently. She didn’t remember rain the day she left school with Mr. Jones, the day he took her wherever he had taken her.

 

She didn’t have time to think about this—she had no clue where he was. He could leap out from behind her like in every horror movie she’d ever seen and stab her with his knife. That thought propelled her forward as if being pulled by an invisible string attached to a speeding car.

 

A car. That’s what that light must have been. Someone’s car passed by and the headlights shone through the window. That meant she was close to a street or highway. She’d run in the direction she remembered the light shining from.

 

She sprinted barefoot through the mud, not minding the goopy mess hitting her exposed legs.

 

“Help!,” She screamed as she got nearer to the break in the woods. “Help me, please!”

 

Her calves burned and her left leg cramped—still, she ran. Her chest hurt from a lack of rest, water, and her constant sobbing. She wouldn’t give up, though. No matter how bad she felt, no matter how long it took, she’d keep going until she found someone to take her home to her parents.

 

The girl stood out on the edge of the woods by the street. She forced herself not to cry when she saw the blackened night with no moving vehicles in sight. Was the earlier car a fluke, a random passerby making their way across the county line, or had she imagined it all along? It was completely possible that after how many ever days she’d been in captivity, she’d begin to hallucinate a savior. Maybe there wasn’t such a thing. God knows Mr. Jones wasn’t one, even though that’s exactly how he portrayed himself to her and her parents when they first met. How someone could be so charming and polite, so sincere and good, how that person could suddenly turn so cruel and evil was beyond her. She couldn’t believe the man who’d been hurting her day after day was the same person who’d helped her with her homework and sat at her father’s table for Sunday dinners.

 

“Help me, somebody!” she shrieked before racing down the street. A cold breeze whipped through her flimsy t-shirt and chilled her to the bone. She didn’t have time to feel embarrassed by her partially dressed state.

 

She needed to find someone before she was found.

 

A flashing light in the distance caught her eye and she sighed, stumbling down the empty road, ignoring the sharp stabs of rock beneath her feet. Josephine found herself drawing near the light and let out a laugh. It bubbled up out of her throat before she could catch it. She was becoming hysterical she knew, but who could blame her?

 

The flashing stopped when she approached the end of the street. Her eyes, blurred from tears and strain, narrowed to better see into the night. She saw a ravine, but no car. Her eyes darted to her left and she choked on a sob.

 

Mr. Jones stood beside a black sedan with an open trunk.

 

“No.” She dropped to her knees, burying her face in her hands.

 

For a moment, his face almost appeared concerned. Quickly, the look vanished and a grin played across his lips.

 

“Aw, darlin’—don’t cry,” he said, his voice low and calm. “It was a good effort.”

 

The girl’s frail frame convulsed as she doubled over, sobbing. He’d led her into a trap. Worse—she knew it when she ran. And now the chase was over.  

 

“Oh, sweetie—please get up.” Mr. Jones lifted her off the ground by her shoulders. She had no fight left in her to protest. He cupped her chin in his rough hand, pulling her body flush against his. “I want us to be close when it happens,” he whispered.

 

Josephine stared up at him with blank eyes. She was frozen; a statue. Her mind and body shut down, which was for the best she thought. Then panic seized her when she realized that was probably the last thing she’d ever think again.

 

 

Mr. Jones whistled a jaunty tune, swing maybe, as he carried a sheet-covered body to the trunk of his car. A fresh red stain pooled in the middle of the bundle. He gently laid the girl in the trunk, bending over to kiss the spot her forehead used to be. He hadn’t meant to mess up her face. Shame—he loved her face. It was so…open.

 

He said a quick prayer for the young girl, then tossed in his blade beside her. He slammed the trunk shut and resumed his song. It was definitely swing.

 

The hunger had been abated when they shared her last moments together, but now he felt the throbbing right below his navel resume. He was disappointed. This meant he’d have to get to another town as soon as possible and another town meant more risk.

 

He climbed into his car and drove into the woods. Tossing Josephine in the ravine would have been too easy. He didn’t want anyone to find her until he was clear of Indian Hills. Sure, he hadn’t given anyone any reason to suspect him of wrongdoing, but he didn’t want to overestimate his own intelligence and underestimate that of the townsfolk. They might have been out in the middle of South Bumblefuck and Hillbilly Hell, but not everyone around here was an idiot. People would talk. His absence so soon after Josephine’s death would raise concern. He needed to put her some place no one would find her for days.

 

When he got far enough in the woods to where he was confident animals wouldn’t scavenge the remains (and how strange it was for him to think of his sweet girl that way), Mr. Jones removed her from the safety of the car’s trunk. He found a semi-dry patch of land and laid her out. He removed the sheet and tossed it by the wayside. He wanted people to see his work. Obscuring it seemed like sacrilege.

 

Gazing down at what was left of Josephine Harvey, he wondered what she was thinking at the climax. Was she scared? Did she hate him? Was she thinking about her parents and sister or was he the only one on her mind? It bothered him that he’d never know the answer. Maybe he should have had her talk to him during. Well, she couldn’t really talk through all that screaming, he supposed, but maybe if he’d let her say something before he put the knife to her throat he’d know for sure.

 

The unknown would stay with him long after the memory of her faded. He’d feel that loss for quite some time, he was sure of it. And this town didn’t know it yet, but they too would soon feel that loss.

________________________________________

Dark Tales: eVolume Two will be released via Amazon and Smashwords October 31st for free until November 1st.

Dark Tales: eVolume One by Elle Chambers FREE On Smashwords until Nov. 1st!

Halloween is almost here and in honor of the holiday, Indie Spirit Press is making Dark Tales: eVolume One by Elle Chambers FREE on Smashwords.

Dark Tales: eVolume One is a micro collection of short, dark stories. The collection includes three tales:

“When Daddy Comes Home”: When Opal Brown’s husband leaves her for another woman, she doesn’t get angry – she gets determined to keep her family together at all costs. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach and Opal plans to make him a meal he’ll never forget.

“Child’s Play”: Maggie is worried about her five-year-old son after his father’s death. Max seems oddly detached from the tragedy and has invented a young friend named Edgar he talks to in secret in the middle of the night. Most kids his age have imaginary friends so Maggie tries not to be concerned – that is, until Max confides in her his young friend is actually an adult who comes to play with him when his mommy is sleeping.

and

“The Storyteller”: Elizabeth’s house has been on the market for weeks with no interest. One day, an old woman with a dead hand appears on her doorstep asking to see the place. As they tour the house, Elizabeth gradually becomes uncomfortable with the woman’s familiarity of both the house and of her since she’s never laid eyes on the old woman before in her life. Or has she?

Free Fiction: Dialogue Only Shorts

Recalling Past Lives

by

Elle Chambers

Thank God you came. He’s been asking for you.

 

No problem. How’s he doing?

 

He’s better now, more lucid, but…

 

What?

 

I’m not sure how much longer he has. He could go any day now. You should call your parents, let them know so they can make arrangements.

 

I will. Thanks, Barb.

 

***

 

Hey, Pop.

 

Carl – what’re you doing here?

 

Barb called, said you wanted to see me.

 

Oh, yes. I did. I’m glad you’re here.

 

What’d you want to see me for?

 

Why are you standing all the way over there like a stranger? Get the chair in the corner and come sit beside me, son.

 

Okay.

 

***

 

Are you comfortable?

 

I suppose. What’s going on, Grandpa?

 

What do you mean?

 

I’ve tried to come see you before and you always told Barb to tell me that you weren’t having visitors.

 

Now you call me here – what gives?

 

“What gives” is that I wanted to see my grandson before I…well, before I was no longer able to.

 

Don’t talk like that, Pop. You’ll be around for-

 

Don’t patronize me, Carl. I know what Barbara told you. I know it because I can feel it. I’m dying.

 

…Yes.

 

I wanted you here because I couldn’t leave without anyone knowing what I did.

 

What you did? What’d you do?

 

Your father and I never got along. I’m sure you know that. It was my fault.

 

Dad has a lot of idiosyncrasies, Pop. You can’t blame yourself for everything.

 

No. Still, I think he sensed it in me. The darkness. It scared him.

 

You’re not making any sense. I’m gonna go get Barb, see if she can get you something to help you sleep.

 

I’m not tired or crazy and I’d appreciate if you’d stop talking to me as if I were.

 

Sorry.

 

Now sit back down and listen.

 

***

 

There were girls, before I met your grandmother. A few of them. All very pretty and very young. I didn’t know them well. The first girl, Noreen Hodge, had just turned thirteen. I saw her walking home from school one day and offered her a ride in my daddy’s car. I’d just gotten my license and was ready to show off. She’d had the nicest pair of legs I’d seen on a girl. I drove up beside her and rolled the window down. Back in those days, people weren’t so jumpy about getting into a stranger’s car, especially when it was raining out and God, was it pouring that day.

 

I drove past where she said she lived, told her I wanted to take her to Griffith Park over by the lake. I was a good-looking boy back then, like one of them matinee idol types, and all I had to do was smile at her and she blushed and said she’d go with me. I drove to the park with my hand on hers and felt how soft her skin was. It was like a newborns, smooth and unblemished. When I parked the car in the park by the lake, I looked her straight in the eyes – she had the bluest eyes I’d ever seen on a girl – and I asked if I could kiss her. She blushed again and put her head down, but I heard her say yes. So I lifted her chin and kissed her, soft at first, since she didn’t seem to know what she was doing, then faster, more insistent as my hands trailed down her bare legs. She was so wet from the rain. When she shivered, I wasn’t sure if it was because she’d never been kissed before or if she was still cold.

 

I turned the heater on. Just in case she was cold, you see. I turned that heater on and I reached up to unbutton her sweater – she was going to get real hot sitting up under my daddy’s heater with that cotton shirt on. She broke the kiss and pushed my hands away. I asked what was wrong – I thought she liked what I was doing – but she frowned at me and said she needed to go home right away. She forgot that her mother was expecting her to do something or other, I forget now, and if she was late she’d be in trouble.

 

Well, I asked her if she could stay a while longer. I was raring to go and my pulse was beating so loud I could hear it over the sound of my own voice. I was hot and I wanted to keep touching her, keep kissing her.

 

She told me no. She said she had to go and I needed to take her back immediately. She straightened her sweater – I remember it was blue – and I don’t know what came over me, but I reached out and grabbed the bottom of it and pulled the sweater so hard, the bottom two buttons popped off and it tore. She yelled, but I put my hand over her mouth and pulled her close to me. With my right hand, I ripped open the top of her sweater and saw the plain t-shirt she had on underneath. And I don’t know why, but that shirt made me angry so I snatched that two. She struggled against me, trying to bite my hand, so I hit her twice in the mouth to keep her still you see – not to hurt her. She screamed again so I had to climb on top of her and lay my body across her to muffle the sound. There wasn’t any other cars out that I could see, but I couldn’t risk it.

 

Pop, what are you talking about? Are you saying you raped somebody?

 

***

 

I put my hands around her neck to get her to stop screaming. She stopped squirming after a while…just laid there and looked up at me with her big, blue eyes. I put a hand over her face. I didn’t like the way she looked at me. I guess with my hands on her throat and over her face, she couldn’t breathe. When I was done, I looked down at her and her eyes were blank. Her lips weren’t moving and she wasn’t really looking at me anymore. It was quiet except the sound of my daddy’s heater going and my breathing.

 

I panicked. I hadn’t meant to hurt her – she was just so pretty. I got out of the car and went over to her side. I opened the door and pulled her out by the arms. She was heavy and I couldn’t carry her. My arms were too tired. I dragged her into the woods by a bunch of rocks. When I hit her with the first one, I was trying to cover her face. Someone could have seen her getting into my daddy’s car and they’d send me to the chair once they found the body and connected the dots.

 

Hold on – stop. Dad told me this story back when I was in high school. That wasn’t you, Pop. It was your dad who did it. He got arrested for it and everything – it was all over the papers.

 

It wasn’t. Someone saw his car pick her up, but they didn’t see who was driving. When they found her body, it was so badly beaten they couldn’t tell much of what happened to her. Daddy didn’t have an alibi so they locked him up.

 

No, Grandpa, that’s not what happened. Your father confessed to the crime. He’d been following Noreen for weeks. He’d abused your younger sister, Kate, and that’s why your mom sent her to live with your cousins. That wasn’t you.

 

I know what I remember doing, Carl. Noreen wasn’t the only one either. There were probably dozens after her: Phyllis Campbell, Moira King, Ruth Tuttle – they were all like Noreen. The other girls…well, their experience was different. I got angrier the older I became. Accidents stopped being accidents and were planned. I don’t remember the other girls’ names or faces, but I do remember the screams. They were always so loud, so perfect, that I’d get beside myself.

 

Okay, I’m going to go get Barb because this is nuts and I can’t listen to this anymore.

 

Sit down, Carl. Now. I’m not finished. People need to know what I did. Your father needs to know.

 

Know what? That you think you killed a bunch of girls a long time ago?

 

I don’t think – I know. I know because of what I did to Pam.

 

And Pam is who?

 

She was a girl your father was sweet on in school.

 

Wait, you mean the girl who went missing?

 

Your father told you about her?

 

Yes. They were twelve and dad had a crush on her. Someone kidnapped her on the way home from her dance class.

 

She wasn’t kidnapped.

 

Pop? Stop this. You didn’t do anything to her. The police arrested someone in connection with her disappearance. The guy confessed after the cops found her hair tie on him.

 

He may have found her body in that quarry, but he didn’t put her there. He didn’t feel her writhing against him, digging her nails into his skin; he didn’t see the way her lips curled up into a grimace. He didn’t hear the screams.

 

That’s enough. I don’t know why you’re saying this, but you are very sick and you need help.

 

I’m telling you the truth and you refuse to hear it. So which one of us needs help?

 

Barb?!

 

Yes, Mr. Willis?

 

Can you please get my grandfather’s medication? He’s delirious.

 

Yes, sir.

You can drug me all you want, boy, but it doesn’t change the past. I did what I said I did. I’d like your father to know so he can have some peace.

 

I’m not telling dad anything. If you murdered these girls, where’s the evidence, Pop? Huh? You keep saying that these guys who were arrested were falsely accused even though there was evidence linking them to the crimes. What proof do you have?

 

My word.

 

Yeah, ‘cause that’s real reliable right now. You’re dying, Pop. You’re delusional. Your mind is halfway gone-

 

On the contrary. My mind has never been more clear. I remember the night I took her. I hadn’t done anything like it in fifteen, sixteen years. I came home with scratches on my arms. There was blood on the hem of my shirt. It got in the way. Your grandmother saw me. She didn’t say anything. She took me into the bedroom and helped me out of my clothes. They were wet with perspiration, among other things-

 

Stop.

 

She ran me a bath. I cried when I stepped into the warm water. She picked up my clothes and narrowed her eyes at me. “Don’t do it again, Joe.” That’s all she said. “So help me God. Don’t do it again.”

 

She burned my clothes while I scrubbed that girl off my skin.

 

Mr. Willis? Here’s your medicine.

 

Take your pills, Grandpa. Get some rest.

 

I can’t rest, son. And now…neither can you. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halloween and Dark Tales: What Inspires You?

And All Through The HouseHere we are in October, my favorite month of the year. Soon the leaves will be turning that crisp brown, gold, and/or burnt orange color and will be falling off the trees into large, inviting piles just waiting for some giddy child (or a silly adult such as myself) to jump on in ‘em.

But the best part of October is Halloween. The costumes, the candy, the haunted houses and hayrides – I love it all. Even better, most stations this month will be running horror movie marathons leading up to the 31st so there will never be a shortage of things to watch to send a subtle chill up your spine and keep you up at night.

I’m working on my next micro collection of dark tales for release around Halloween and while brainstorming ideas, I realized something I hadn’t thought about before: most of my stories are inspired by film or television, not by the horror fiction I grew up reading.

As my bio stated, I lived for Stephen King novels as a kid. I remember being six-years-old going to the library every weekend with my mom and brother, heading straight back to the horror section and bypassing all the children’s and middle grade literature. I’d read the back cover copy on his older books in the section, read the jacket flaps, and if the cover was frightening or strange, I’d put it in my “to read” pile.

Once I had an armload of books, I’d head on over to the librarian at the circulation desk and plop my bounty up on the counter, sliding her (because it was always a female working the desk) my library card. She’d look at me, then up at my mother, then back down to the titles I’d laid out for her, then back at mom.  Mom would just shrug and say, “She likes scary stories.”  The librarian would sigh, shake her head, and check out the age-inappropriate material, handing the books to me with a concerned and bewildered expression on her face. I’d smile, thank the judgey librarian, and happily jog out to my mother’s car, cracking open one of the tomes to read on the short ride home.

Movies, however, seem to have had a greater impact on me and my sensibilities as a writer mainly because they operate on a visual level. I’m a visual person. Images I see get burned into my mind and never leave (seriously – I have almost perfect recall of things I’ve seen, and been horrified by, as a child) and while I’m writing, these images come to the forefront of my mind and inform the tone of whatever it is I’m working on.

For example, in Dark Tales: eVolume One there’s a story called “Child’s Play” about a young boy and his imaginary friend who might not be quite so imaginary. After I wrote it, I came upon Thomas Ligotti’s short story “The Frolic” and was surprised by how similar my ending of “Child’s Play” was to his – but not very. Because ultimately, my ending was a take off a Tales from the Crypt episode I’d seen as a kid called “And All Through the House” (and I hadn’t consciously intended to do that when I sat down to write the story by the way).  I won’t spoil the endings of any of the three stories mentioned here, but needless to say, I think Ligotti and I must have been inspired by the same story (remember – Tales  was a popular comic book series in the ‘50s and ‘60s and “And All Through the House” was taken from the source material). The image of a deranged serial killer standing in your house dressed as Santa, drenched in blood is a powerful (and chilling) one. As is a woman screaming. These images are perfect jumping off points for a horror story.1_TCSOTL

I don’t have any hard proof Ligotti ever read the comic (and his short story was written before “And All Through the House” was filmed for the Tales HBO series) but it wouldn’t surprise me if he had seen the comics as a boy and had been partially inspired to write dark fiction because of it. Since I know now that I create based off things I’ve seen, TV shows and films that have stuck with me, I wonder – does anyone else do this? And I’m not talking about writing fanfic; that’s a whole other issue.  What I mean is, does anyone else unintentionally write a story and then go back, read a book or watch a movie and think, Gee, I think I might have cribbed that totally awesome idea I had earlier from here? I’d love to hear from writers of any genre on this, but especially horror/dark fiction writers since the genre we write in oftentimes tends to be a bit more graphic and atmospheric than others.