Tuesday, July 14, 2015


According to the original note card upon which the story idea was jotted, I dreamed up "One More" in 1992 -- not long after sending my first stories out into the publishing universe.  To quote, "I'm at the ocean-side home of an austere man with silver hair..."  It wasn't until the summer of Y2K that I penned the actual first draft, which went into my archive of completed manuscripts.  For years, that dream haunted me, in which I found myself homeless and living on meager pickings from trashcans along a stretch of rainy beach.  My dream-character then found further horror in the ocean-side house of said silver-haired man, who had constructed a bizarre version of a roller coaster inside his lair.

When the fine folks at Firbolg Publishing put forth an open call for Dreamscapes into Darkness, an anthology that came with a warning to be careful for what you wish for, I cycled back to that story, and the main character -- a hungry, homeless boy desperate for his next meal.  The hunt for sustenance leads him past the trashcans and promise of returnables, to a house among the dunes he's been warned to avoid.  I dusted off that first draft manuscript, fired it off to Firbolg's leading lady, Doctor Alex Scully, for review, and was thrilled to receive an acceptance to the fine anthology, which also contains reprints by the likes of such literary superstars as Mary Shelley, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and H.P. Lovecraft.  "One More" is, in fact, nestled beside a reprint of "The Rocking Horse Winner" by none other than the brilliant D.H. Lawrence.

Several of my talented contemporaries in the table of contents were kind enough to share the back stories behind their stories in Dreamscapes into Darkness.

Patrick Lacey on "That Other Place": "I wish I could tell you a mind-blowing, earth-crashing story about where I got the idea for my Dreamscapes piece, but, like many of my other story ideas, this one came out of the ether. I was walking past a tree one day and imagined, for no reason I could pinpoint, that there was a window embedded in the wood. Not a decoration or a piece of junk but an actual window. It was stupid, I thought. You couldn’t make something so random into something scary. But the idea stayed with me. I’d already written about everyday objects/occurrences that become evil (see: video games, a dumpster, a cuckoo clock, and even junk mail), so why not this? I got thinking about what I’d do if I could see through the window, about what would be on the other side. Would it be a world similar to ours or entirely foreign? And if something lived in said world, would it be friendly? I assumed not if I was writing about it. Combine all this with my fascination with alternate dimensions and you have the boring but lucrative story behind ‘That Other Place.’"

Roxanne Dent on "Heart of Stone": "Initially, I received the idea as a writing prompt from a Sunday writers' group soiree. The word was ‘Stone.’ But the story itself developed after I attached the two words, ‘Heart of.’  I thought about the romantic relationships I’d had when I was young. I was often attracted to ‘Bad Boys,’ or those who had issues and couldn’t or wouldn’t commit. I was left in the dust, hurt and depressed.  It finally occurred to me I wanted to be the one who healed them of their pain and live happily ever after. It was unrealistic, arrogant and doomed to failure. The idea of creating a character with those exaggerated traits falling in love with the epitome of evil, unconscious of her motivation, caught my imagination.  Setting the tale in a church like the one mentioned in The Da Vinci Code, with the statue of a demon coming alive, came to me when I woke up one morning. It also tied in to my love of history and the supernatural.

K. Trap Jones on "The Weathermaker": "The inspiration came from a question lingering within my mind, ‘What if controlling the weathering elements were a job?’ The task has to be stressful with the way the atmosphere functions and the different environments requiring unique weathering patterns. The character of the Weathermaker needed to be unstable and I wrote the tone for him built around an elderly philosopher with severe anger issues. I imagined him being alone within a remote cabin and constantly having to monitor weathering patterns in order to avoid catastrophes. One slip could cause a typhoon or hurricane; one spike of anger could spark horrendous tornadoes. Although he is not a violent man, I wanted to create a personality built on frustration and resentment for the task he is burdened with and the lack of respect he feels civilization grants the weather. The combination of anger and resentment towards people surfaces when the Weathermaker has to sometimes deal with the occasional rogue death hiccup in the system.  When an adrenaline junkie crosses the threshold of purgatory and washes upon the shores of the Weathermaker’s land, he must not only deal with the anger of the old man, but also the reality that he alone has to continue upon the path of death in order to continue towards the afterlife."

(Promotional artwork for "One More")
Rob Smales on "First Horse": "When I write, I either write a flash fiction (something extremely short), or I run a bit long -- and these days, my tendency is toward the long. Sometimes…okay, often, I have trouble coming in under the maximum word count publishers are looking for. When the idea for First Horse occurred to me, I realized I would need an explanation of spirit guides, for readers who were unfamiliar with the concept. I did some research (the internet being a wonderful thing), and came up with plenty of Native American legends that mentioned spirit guides, but none that explained them, or gave their origins. So I wrote one. I enjoyed writing the tale that opens the story, the legend of Warrior and Dog, that Grandfather Whitefeather tells to Jimmy Tsosi. I’ve read Native American myths, and was trying to mimic the voice you hear in them -- a voice distinctly not my own. It was fun. But there was a problem: by the time I was done, I’d taken up over a quarter of the word allotment given by Firbolg Publishing, and I hadn’t even started the story I wanted to tell. *sigh* I picked up my editing pen…

B. E. Scully on "The Son Who Shattered His Father's Dream": "Parents always want the best for their children. But what if ‘the best’ ends up being the absolute worst thing any parent could imagine?  My short story “The Son Who Shattered His Father’s Dream” was inspired by an article in The New Yorker magazine titled ‘The Empire of Edge,’ by Patrick Radden Keefe. It chronicled the rise and fall of a young trader who got caught participating in a huge financial scandal, and focused especially on the trader’s childhood -- both the unconditional support and the crushing expectations of the man’s formative years. In fact, I took the title of my story and the anecdote behind it directly from an actual incident in this family’s life. The story was fascinating and, even though the trader certainly did have his fall coming, it was heartbreaking, too, particularly for his family. It got me thinking about the tricky territory parents navigate between pushing their children and perhaps pushing them too hard and way too far -- sometimes even straight off of a cliff. So I took all of this and turned it into my own more dark, much more sinister tale."

(The note card for "One More")
Nancy Hayden on "No Man's Land": "A few years ago, my husband and I visited the Western Front in France. I was interested in the Argonne Forest as this was where millions of U.S. soldiers fought at the end of the war, including my great uncle. Thousands were killed. We walked along a logging road in the re-grown Argonne Forest, past partially filled in shell holes, and found an old WWI trench that cut back into the woods. We decided to explore the trench. We hadn’t gone very far when my husband became uneasy. That wasn’t like him. A little further along, he said he had to get out of there, and before waiting for me to answer, he hurried back the way we’d come. When we were back on the logging road, he confessed to feeling anxious, like something was pulling him down, each step harder than the last. I don’t know what it was, but something was going on in that trench. And that’s where my story begins -- a husband and wife exploring France’s abandoned WWI trenches. Only for them, it wasn’t as easy to get out."

Kurt Fawver on "An Interview With Samuel X. Slayden": "If you've read my story, you'll know that it involves the torture (or perhaps terrible enlightenment?) of a group of writers who are well-known and well-regarded in the world of the story. However, when I initially wrote the tale, I used caricatures of authors from ‘real life’ as the bases for my fictional authors. As I edited, I decided that approach was too fraught with problems to be sustainable. One, I didn't want to represent any real author negatively for fear of offending and two, I didn't feel I ‘knew’ the famous authors I was using in any personal sense, so that the caricatures were too thin, too one-dimensional. So, I took my authors back to the drawing board and rewrote them all. I think the result was better, more realistic characters that had no cognate in reality. That said, even in rewriting, I did leave a few ‘trademark’ qualities stuck to several of my ill-fated authors. So it might be an interesting exercise for a reader to try to figure out what ‘real’ author was originally the foundation for each of my tormented scribes."

Joe Powers on "Lead Us Not Into Temptation": " This story, about a reformed child predator who finds himself back on the hunt, was based on a random guy I saw in the bank parking lot one morning. Something about the way he looked and carried himself made me wonder what he was up to, and I created this monster in my head based on that quick observation. I’d started dating someone new around the time I completed the first draft. She’d been very enthusiastic and supportive of the stuff I’d shown her to that point. Horror writers are a strange lot that are, at best, often viewed with wary skepticism, but she didn’t seem fazed by my chosen genre. Without really thinking it all the way through I sent a copy of the draft to her and eagerly awaited her adulation. It occurred to me not long after this might not be the best way to impress the mother of a young daughter. Luckily for me this wonderful woman -- now my fiancĂ©e -- drew no conclusions about my character from my questionable subject matter. We laugh about it now, but looking back it could have gone south in a hurry."    

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