Monday, October 29, 2012


(Ghostly mist surrounds the retreat house on Saturday, October 27, 2012)
From Sunday, October 21 through the morning of the 28th, I retreated to a lovely little lodge house in North Conway, New Hampshire.  The house sits beneath the bald granite summit of Cathedral Ledge, a celebrated peak in the White Mountains. Standing on the wrap-around deck, one gazes up and there is the mountain.  Beyond that, only sky.  It is a breathtaking spot to sit and ponder, to dream.  I did both quite often during the week, the culmination to an October quite unlike any other during which I traveled, gave readings, and found myself with some brilliant new opportunities. Unexpected adventure was everywhere I turned in this mysterious month, which has always ranked among my favorite times of the year.

October kicked off with an incredible trip to Rochester, Vermont.  I was among a handful of scribes who won a free stay at When Words Count Retreat Center, a new high-end destination designed to pamper writers and help them to achieve their dreams.  As described in previous posts, my stay was above and beyond magnificent.  Truly, my time there will forever rank as one of the most enjoyable of my adult life.  Words flowed, as did a level of creative energy too rare in this era where publishing is being transformed before our eyes.  WWC is a gift I intend to give myself again, and the relationships I established with the retreat center's director and owners, by all outward signs, will lead to several exciting and mutually-beneficial work opportunities in the near future and down the pike.

(A favorite chair -- and pillow -- in the Stein Salon at When
Words Count Retreat Center)
My time at When Words Count came close on the heels of my trip to Star Island, another fantastic and productive adventure in which fresh pages and inspiration were in decent supply. Linking the two retreats together was an opportunity to write for a television series that literally fell out of the sky. Producers seeking to reboot one of the smartest and most thrilling TV shows of all time contacted me based upon work of mine they'd read (including a post on this very blog!), and I was brought on board the new production team.  While my NDA letter prevents me from discussing the project at this stage, I believe the work we are doing has the potential to be huge.  My enthusiasm for this particular gig has been a daily constant since and is responsible for several though hardly all the wide, giddy grins I am guilty of flashing throughout my stay at When Words Count.

Two days after returning from Vermont, I found myself back in the car driving north to give a reading at the Barley House in Concord, New Hampshire.  I and several contributors from the fabulous line of anthologies published by Rick Broussard, New Hampshire Pulp Fiction, entertained a significant crowd of devotees with samples of our stories.  My tale of Combat Science Fiction and sacrifice, "The Moths," is slated to appear in the latest release.  Rick asked me to read from the very first volume, Live Free or Undead, which contains my story "Road Rage."  Quite a few of my Wednesday night writer's group's members showed to support me, and I took to the stage amid thunderous applause.  I dedicated my reading to, "The courageous men and women of Moonbase Alpha" and was then asked to stick around to help judge a flash fiction contest put on by the fine folk at The New Hampshire Writers' Project.

(Reading from "Road Rage" at the Barley House)
I returned home and, seemingly in the blink of an eye, it was time to depart for North Conway, a return exactly one year to the date from a previous visit.  I and two of my pals from the writer's group moseyed north, stopping in Tilton, New Hampshire to shop for groceries and other needed provisions, and arrived early to find the house as lovely and welcoming as I remember. Sunlight rained down and a temperate breeze stirred the last of the colored leaves.  And there was Cathedral Ledge, visible from half the house's windows.  Our first night there, I made prime rib and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.  We drank iced coffee, cold sodas, seltzer with wedges of lemon, wrote, and relaxed in front of a roaring log fire.

Beds and accommodations at that house are wonderfully comfortable, the owner, Maureen Parziale, a delight -- hence the annual return.  And my creative output was no less solid than during my two previous retreat stays on Star Island and at When Words Count.  I put the nib of my fountain pen to page and dashed off the last two chapters of my modern Gothic novel full of grand guignol and dark family secrets, Blinders.  On Monday, I had a long and thrilling phone conversation with WWC's Jon Reisfeld regarding one of the possible writing work opportunities looming on the very near horizon, and then received an email from an editor seeking multiple short stories of mine for a new anthology he is putting together for German book publisher Bruno Gemuender.  On Tuesday, I woke from a haunting dream and began to pen a new short story based upon the dream's quite solid bones.  Later that afternoon, I returned to the novel -- close, so very close, to its THE END.

(My novel in its first draft)
On Wednesday, while racing closer to the novel's conclusion, I received an email from Laura Baumbach, my editor at MLR Press, which released my M/M mystery novella, "Mason's Murder," this past August. Laura was contacted by the new director of The Lambda Literary Awards, who is apparently a fan of my work and who asked for me by name -- would I be interested in being a judge on this year's awards panel and chairing the Science Fiction/Horror/Fantasy category?  After the shock wore off I agreed that yes, indeed, I was most interested in the position. The next morning, I wrote the final pages of Blinders and felt like a million bucks.  Despite the novel's dark subject matter, it's a story that has haunted me from the moment the Muse dropped it onto my lap.  I am proud of its 310 pages/77,500 words.  After a spell, I intend to draw it out of the filing cabinet where it now rests and transcribe/edit onto the computer for submission.

On Saturday, I penned the entirety of "Mourning Doves in Limbo," a 2,500-word short story already promised to an editor. Our last night culminated with a reading from our works-in-progress, peanut butter cookies, and a late retiring to bed in preparation for an early start.  By ten on Sunday morning, the 28th, our happy writing retreat lodge sparkled after a solid cleaning, and we were on the road, headed south for home.  But the adventure was hardly ended because, as I type this on Monday, October the 29th, Hurricane Sandy is bearing down on our little Granite State.  The lights are still on, and all is snug and secure, though outside the windows and the happy lights in my office, the world is gray and tremulous.  It's been one hell of an October!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

When Words Count Writers Retreat Part Two

Within a minute of my arrival to When Words Count Retreat Center, a new destination for writers nestled in a rambling country hollow between the mountain peaks of Rochester, Vermont, I knew I had found my way to one of the happiest places on the planet. Since the autumn of 1993, I have retreated to write regularly across the New England countryside, from inns to islands and all points in between.  That first retreat to Wentworth Mountain over the Halloween weekend of '93 changed my life forever -- I went there determined to either give up this 'writing thing' or to embrace it like my very life depended upon the outcome.  Circumstances clearly favored the latter; even at its darkest moments since, I have loved my life, lived it with joy and exuberance.  Wandering the happy halls of When Words Count was like stepping back nearly twenty years through time to that very first retreat where I drank copious amounts of Earl Grey tea, luxuriated before a roaring fire, and communed with my muse in an intimate way deeper than marrow or blood; on a soul level.

That Monday night, I and my fellow conferees -- the fabulous Amber Lisa, the inimitable Jan Cannon (who is penning an amazing book), Lisa Cordeiro, and writer singer/songwriter Chrissie Van Wormer -- lounged in the Gertrude Stein Salon for a reading of our works.  I had just the previous night gotten book galleys for my short story "Phantomime" which was selected to appear in the invite-only anthology Blood Rites, a forthcoming release from Blood Bound Books.  I read the story aloud and got some fantastic feedback, and then I was thrilled to hear Jan's pages, followed by Amber's.  Both ladies knocked it out of the park as far as I'm concerned.  I love being read to.  I love it when the writing is stellar, and it sure was.

I enjoyed one of the most rejuvenating night's sleep in recent memory and woke with the opening of a short story that has eluded me since the spring and my trip through America's quite-wild West.  After showering, I wandered downstairs to the Stein Salon and wrote almost the entirety of "Cruciform" before Chef Paul arrived to cook us yet another exquisite breakfast.  I powered through to the end of the short story and returned to my novel Blinders, which got a wonderful jump start at the retreat center following six years of languishing unfinished within fifty pages of its THE END.  The same sense of euphoria I experienced in 1993 on the mountain where I chose to be a writer (or, more to the point, the writing chose me) embraced me, and I caught myself smiling widely while seated in the salon with its bookcases and cozy furniture and views of the rolling hills dressed in vibrant autumn colors, savoring the moment.

As part of our stay, we five were each given one-hour consultations with Jon Reisfeld and Steve Eisner who, along with Eisner's lovely wife Nele, were gracious and delightful hosts. Our conversation, held at one in the afternoon on Tuesday at the J. D. Salinger Cottage (a gorgeous detached bungalow just up the hill from the main house and the barn) was so upbeat, so energetic, it has sustained me well after my return from Vermont.  There are great and exciting plans for professional writers being created at the retreat center.  Based upon what they'd seen -- my usual output of fresh pages, one after another -- and what they'd heard me read, Jon and Steve invited me to be part of the excitement, which will also include a return to the center to lecture and workshop with other writers not far down the road.  I skipped along the trail back to the main house following my consultation.  There, beaming, I indulged in that day's episode of my beloved soap General Hospital on the Stein Salon's flat-screen.

Dinner that night included the most delicious butternut squash soup I've ever had the joy of tasting, with creme fraiche and a toasted crouton. Succulent roasted chicken and cauliflower, leafy salads with heirloom tomato and a sweet balsamic dressing, and perhaps the best chocolate chip cookies in the history of the planet followed.

"With simple yet fine ingredients, you can make lavish meals.  You can create something that people really respond to," says Chef Paul Kremar, the culinary genius behind the retreat center's incredible gourmet fare.  "With a handful of ingredients, you can create food that is as good as anything you've ever put in your mouth."

Chef Paul, whose enthusiasm and aura radiated throughout not only the Julia Child kitchen but the dining room and the Stein Salon, where nightly he served up incredible appetizers, was a visible and welcome presence throughout my stay.

"I don't subscribe to that old school notion that the kitchen is the sole domain of the chef," he says. "People are fascinated with food and want an interactive experience.  I believe in the opposite of the old Gourmet Magazine philosophy, which had a 'don't try this at home!' mentality.  Here, I like to interact with you, maybe inspire you to show that you can try this at home after you leave.  Flavor and texture must always reign supreme, and local food gives you a strong footing in terms of quality.  But it should always be yummy.  My goal is to make it the yummiest for our guests."

On our final night, Lisa read her latest short story, a paranormal mystery, and Chrissie, too, shared from her present work-in-progress, both offerings engaging and a treat for the ear.  I retired to my room exhausted but also energized.  For days, I'd absorbed the details of my surroundings, the trees and flowers outside, the elegant antiques acquired from months of auctions, artwork, and the personalized author-specific touches to the rooms.  I slept well and woke rested on the last day of my stay, a rainy and overcast Wednesday.

Saying goodbyes at a conference or retreat are never easy, but no sense of melancholy hung over my departure from When Words Count.  Bruce arrived in our car on time, and off we drove through the bucolic, rain-lashed countryside, headed for home.  A few stops along the way for provisions, and we enjoyed a happy night snunkered down with the cats while rain hammered the State of New Hampshire. Since that afternoon, the amazing energy that infused the retreat has stayed with me, as have the connections made in that magical place, a gift I gave myself and one all writers should treat themselves to.  I am counting the time until I return to that little slice of literary Heaven-on-Earth!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

When Words Count Writer's Retreat Part One

Often, the talented man who runs my Wednesday night writer's group says that it's all about the details when he praises my work.  The same holds true for When Words Count Retreat Center in the beautiful, bucolic Vermont town of Rochester -- the details make for an unforgettable destination all writers should be lucky enough to experience. I knew I had found my way to a small slice of Heaven from the moment I walked in and spied a sign advertising the Writer's Cafe, the name for the dining room and comfortable sitting inglenook soon to the immediate right beyond the front door.  I arrived on October 7, a brisk overcast Sunday, after a delightful ride up through New Hampshire and across the heart of our closest neighbor to the East.  And for the next four days, it was my absolute pleasure to explore this new, beautiful space designed specifically to pamper writers.  The details were, quite honestly, divine.

My journey to When Words Count began while I was checking emails up in my private room at Camp NECon this past July, when I happened to catch an ad on my Facebook page that offered a free stay at a new retreat center in the Green Mountain State.  I applied, not thinking much about the deal again until the day after I returned from Star Island when I received a phone call from spokesman Jon Reisfeld announcing I had won one of the fifty sweepstakes prizes -- a three-day stay.

2012 has been my year to travel, but I've been methodical in my planning and preparation work, so when the chance to visit When Words Count landed in my lap, I almost declined.  With increasing frequency, ten months of planes, trains, and automobiles (not to mention buses and ferry boats) have taken a toll on my energy reserves.  I'm a nester by nature; until January, I'd assumed my years of adventures in distant realms were behind me.  But a few days before departing, I decided to treat myself to an additional day in Vermont and the gourmet fare served by renown chef Paul Kremar, the man credited with re-popularizing the flat bread pizza here in the U.S.  Right up until the moment we left for Rochester, writing obligations kept me working -- a TV episode proposal and two short stories dogged me deep into the weekend.  One of the stories made it from longhand draft to computer that Sunday morning, but at 11:50, I knew I'd have to take "Princess and the Bee" (a fairy tale/Lovecraftian mash-up requested by an editor at Chaosium Press) with me.  And so we departed.  Lunch in Lebanon, NH.  A beautiful and effortless drive through northern forest country dressed in colorful autumn foliage.  A trip over a mountain, thanks to wonky Mapquest directions, and then we followed the crisp white signs set at intervals along a winding road to When Words Count.  Perhaps it was my lack of preparation, or the absence of real build-up -- as stated, this particular trip sneaked up without much fanfare, sandwiched between a retreat to Star Island I'd anticipated for nine full months and an annual week-long visit to North Conway.

I'm more inclined to believe the magic that embraced me from the instant I set foot in the main house, lovingly restored by owner Steve Eisner and his gorgeous wife Nele, owes entirely to the mindset and mission of When Words Count.  Immediately, guests know they do. When all was done, I'd penned some 7,000 fresh words, including a chapter-plus on a novel stalled within clear sight of its The End and a short story that had eluded me since the spring.

All of the guest rooms at When Words Count are named in honor of celebrated authors -- Ernest Hemingway, Emily Dickenson, F. Scott Fitzgerald.  I was originally booked into the Robert Frost Room, but got upgraded to Arthur Miller, a room so elegant and comfortable, I glided through my edits and had them emailed off to my waiting editor a minute or so before 5:30.  I then wandered down through the Julia Child kitchen to the Gertrude Stein Salon, the central gathering room complete with bookcases, comfortable seating, and fireplace, where Chef Paul serves delicious appetizers and cocktails to guests.  Dinner followed at six; it was, simply put, exquisite.  Hors d'oeuvers in the Stein Salon that first night were phyllo tarts with goat cheese and a trio of onions.  Dinner consisted of grilled pork tenderloin on a potato galette with homemade chipotle creme fraiche, roasted Atlantic salmon with a maple-mustard glaze, saffron-scented Basmati rice and sauteed spinach, wedge salad with creamy bleu cheese dressing and grape tomatoes, and warm chocolate chocolate chip cookies.

Three of my fellow four conferees during my stay arrived right before Sunday night dinner.  The first, the delightful and talented Amber Lisa, inspired me with her passion for writing and her enthusiasm for the retreat center, which was as instant as my own.  We dined, laughed, returned to the Stein Salon, and were treated to an impromptu concert by singer/songwriter Chrissie Van Wormer, who blew us all away with her angelic voice and original lyrics.  I retired to the Arthur Miller Room, slipped between the supremely luxurious quilt and high-thread-count sheets, and passed out seconds after closing my eyes.

Up early the next morning, I showered, dressed in comfortable clothes that included one of my 'writing couture' shirts, and dove straight into my novel BLINDERS, about a drifter who integrates into a dysfunctional family in a fictional Berkshire Mountains town, and was stunned with the ease in which I got back into a story that's been stalled and sitting in the 'drawer of shame' of one of my two big filing cabinets for six years.  I had nearly an entire chapter down before breakfast beckoned us for fluffy eggs, fresh fruit, and toast made from artisan bread, all of the ingredients sourced from local farms, another of Chef Paul's standards.  Lunch was no less spectacular, with salad and slices of cheddar cheese.  One of the daily treats is anticipating the posting of the dinner menu. Before gathering for a reading in the Stein Salon, Monday, 10/8's consisted of kicked-up deviled eggs with lemon zest for hors d'oeuvers, Norman Mailer's stuffed mushrooms, beef and pork meatballs slowly simmered in spicy tomato sauce and served over parmesan polenta with braised fennel, green salad with marinated feta, black olives, and balsamic vinaigrette, and warm peanut butter cookies.

As stated, a slice of Heaven, truly.

To be continued.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

September 2012 Writer's Group Party

Honey-teriyake steak tips sizzled, a delicious sesame seed bread went into the oven, deviled eggs got arranged on my kitschy chicken platter, cherry-seltzer punch was in the big drinks dispenser, and the house sparkled in anticipation of welcoming good writer friends and comrades for our annual September Sunday party, a tradition that dates back to 2005. Since then, we've always hosted an open house during my favorite month of the year. We started way-back-when by dovetailing the parties to the season premiere of Desperate Housewives, an event we always anticipated.  Following the cancellation of our former appointment viewing show, this year's potluck was different for other reasons as well -- and one of the most enjoyable parties we've ever thrown.

I've been a member of three writer's groups. Tenure in the first lasted for sixteen years, the second for two and a half.  I joined my current group a year and a half ago, and have found a level of comfort and enthusiasm that has directly benefited my writing output. Long ago in that first writer's group, the autumn of 1995, I created the concept of monthly potluck get-togethers where colleagues broke bread, read stories, poems, and novel chapters on a theme and, above all, had a day of fun celebrating the writing we all love so passionately.  This month's theme was: "Surprise!" -- and the dozen fantastic scribes who attended took the prompt and produced stellar work.

Guests began to arrive at noon.  A blackberry candle burned, and not one but two pumpkins decorated the space. At right, the talented Sara Fowles, Roxanne Dent, Karen Dent, and Douglas Poirier, all published, all producing exciting new work, lounge following the incredible spread, which also boasted peanut noodles, Thai basil chicken over garlic basmati rice, salad, an incredible Hungarian chicken-paprika dish, two kinds of homemade brownies (caramel walnut and chocolate chip), chocolate chip cookies stuffed with Oreos served out of a beautiful decorated jack o'lantern, and a platter of cookies.

The gorgeous and fabulous novelist, short story writer, playwright, and screenwriter Roxanne Dent treated us to a fantastic new story that exceeded the theme's expectations.  She and Karen then performed Karen's short play, which was shockingly brilliant.  Karen, I must note yet again, was quite the visible actress before turning her talents to writing.  She routinely worked on my favorite late, lamented soap, One Life to Live as a day player, as well as numerous New York-based dramas and some major feature films.

Every story read was engaging and helped to create an atmosphere of inspiration and energy that only grew more addictive as the afternoon progressed.  While we dined and read, episodes of Space:1999 on DVD played with the volume muted on our flat-screen, adding to the creative vibe.

When my turn came, I read the opening and the second chapter of a new project that came to me on the final day on Star Island during my recent island writing retreat adventure, a novel called Oh Happy Day.  And I was quite happy with the results, even though I was less than twelve hours away from a miserable autumn cold identical to ones that kept two of our friends from attending.

As has often been the case, that wonderful uplifting energy surged all day and into the early night, but the party ended too soon and our guests disbanded.  I cleaned up with an ease like no party ever before, and the house continued to sparkle.  The temptation to snuggle up in my Writing Room possessed me, but then the first sign of the cold lurking in my system manifested, and so I crawled into bed, catching myself smiling from time to time.  It was a fantastic writer's group party, the latest in a long line.  Maybe my favorite party of the past eight Septembers. Next up, our second annual Christmas soiree, and I can't wait to hear the writing that will result from the theme, which was handed out during the September party: each guest received an envelope with a different prompt inside.  I got the one that reads: "Something found in an old book."

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Over the course of two years, a writer whose former friendship burned briefly but brightly developed a habit of leaving things behind following her regular visits to our home -- colored paperclips, the small neon post-it notes she used to mark stories and poems written in journals without page numbers, postcards and other ephemera.  Toward the end of the friendship,  she attempted to drop off furniture that wasn't wanted nor needed.  In the aftermath, I was faced with so many reminders of that lost friendship, everywhere I turned, that I was forced to set about removing the artwork and empty journals (I write my first drafts on notepads with tear-off sheets, store them numbered and in decorative file folders) just to be able to create comfortably in my home again without constant reminders of the ugly way the relationship went nuclear, for reasons that remain unclear to this day.

The notion that the objects we are surrounded by within our homes can be and sometimes are imbued with a kind of energy, negative or positive, formed the basis for the original short story I wrote specifically for Tales of Terror and Mayhem From Deep Within the Box when approached by Charles Day.  In my story "Material Possession," a man attempts to get everything within his home just so, just right, only his efforts at perfection are hampered by one or more of the unwanted objects within its walls.  Writing the story was both therapeutic and fun -- and I am thrilled by the results, which can be read among a Table of Contents that contains twenty-three fine stories by some of the most talented authors in publishing.

Many of my fellow contributors shared the back stories behind their stories in Tales of Terror and Mayhem From Deep Within the Box.

Jon Michael Kelley on "Delano":  "Immediately upon reading the call for this terrific anthology, my mind’s eye framed a rather stark, cheerless portrait of a jack-in-the-box.  Picture a Czechoslovakian toy, balsa and brass, desolate in sepia, through a grainy pre-World War II lens… Is an image starting to form? I then followed through with an austere landscape, one contemporaneous with political fanaticism, contaminating industry, and a suffocating poverty of hope. Oh, and rampant charlatanry. A cheerless mess, to say the least, yes? But beneath this forlorn land there flows an undercurrent of enchantment; a kind of taciturn magic. Hope springs eternal. And with "Delano" I intend to show that optimism can be achieved, even if it has itself assumed a sublime malevolence.”

Rebecca Besser on “Memories”: When I sat down to write "Memories," I knew that I wanted to be somewhat misleading and deceptive. I also knew that I wanted to creep out the reader from the very beginning (hence the first line of my story). Back to the deception... I live in a small, rural area with good, decent people that some would find extremely strange. Yes, I live in the world of rednecks. I know from experience that most of these people who seem strange to the outside world are kind and generous, and nothing to be feared at all. I wanted to play on that a bit. So, I took the crazy-seeming character and made him the good guy after he scared the crap out of people just because he was different. Then, I took the 'normal,' cookie cutter perfect couple and spun them on their top. Basically, I wanted to creep out the reader and make them think about what they saw in life versus their preconceived notions about what things really are. We're all guilty of falling into this flawed trench of thought from time to time, and we need to willfully pull ourselves out to see the truth -- the truth is a wonderful thing. I hope you enjoy "Memories" -- may it hit its mark in your heart and send a chill down your spine."

David C. Hayes on "The Grindylow": The premise of "The Grindylow" was a rather difficult one to address. The initial concept of the story was to create a piece to illustrate the plight of neglected children, children living in squalor and the people that deal with these tragedies on a daily basis. These are all too real instances of pain and abuse that professionals, like our story detectives, must face daily and that children must endure. Therein lies the need for vengeance. Revenge for the wrongs committed against the two little girls in that tenement apartment and, hopefully, a warning to future parents of dubious ethics. I fully realize that this is fiction and, given the fact it is a piece of literature in an anthology, my audience isn't going to be comprised of those aforementioned breeders with low moral fortitude. This was more for me. I'm a selfish writer and always have been. If you read my work, and take the journey I wish you to take, then I get to pick where we go. You may call shotgun (that is perfectly acceptable), but I'm driving. I needed to say something about the plight of so many innocent children and I needed vengeance, even if it was in my own head. So I spoke through the tears of those, like me, that fervently wished these atrocities would never happen. A little research and a water-based creature, a Welsh boogeyman of sorts, fit the bill. I knew that the tears called him and I knew that he punished folks for their misdeeds. He just needed a little...direction. The grindylow took our neglectful, hurtful and hopelessly flawed mother and made sure that she could never, ever, make the same mistakes again. The children (two out of how many hundreds of thousands, dear God) would end up in a better home. Rested and never worried about their next meal. Our detectives would go on to heart-wrenching case after heart-wrenching case, which is their lot in life. The grindylow? Hell, who knows? How about, just to be safe, you make sure that he never has a cause to visit you... 'kay?"

Bruce Turnbull on "Clown Alley": "The first thing that came to mind when I saw the Jester’s Box opening was a room full of clowns. It occurred to me that it must take a strange, hollow individual to join the circus, to put on that grotesque makeup, to perform like a dancing monkey before thousands of spectators. It seemed like punishment to me. I started to narrow in on one
individual, a man who had something to hide, something dark and damaging. To hide the scars, he would vanish beneath the greasepaint, until he was unrecognizable. But we can’t leave the past where it belongs, not when it rules our every waking thought. It is like this for Conrad, the new arrival at the big top, who, surrounded by fellow clowning professionals, feels through safety in numbers he can unburden himself of his dark deeds. Or so he thinks…"

Tara Sayers on "Rest Stop":  "Back in March 2004, I was driving by myself down to Flint, Michigan (a three-hour drive from where I was living in northern Michigan) to go to a concert. Along the way, I pulled off into a rest area, and was instantly hit with a strong sensation of déjà vu. Everything looked ominously familiar. Like Katie, the protagonist in my story, I’m not usually prone to attacks of paranoia when traveling alone, but I found myself feeling very nervous and got back on the road as quickly as possible. After the show, driving home in the middle of the night, my imagination took over and came up with a scenario explaining the frightening familiarity of that roadside rest stop. As soon as I was safely home, I sat down and wrote this story -- frequently checking behind me the entire time."

Doug Rinaldi on "Cruciform": "'Cruciform' started as a late night pass-the-pad-and-pen-around drunken mess between me and two of my college roommates back in '94, or sometime around there.  Every so often, bored out of skulls yet still too afraid to drop acid, we would just sit around and write goofy stuff to each other in efforts to either outdo the previous attempt or make someone squirt Schlitz Ice out of their nose.  But the core story that was born that night stuck with me and eventually evolved into what it is today.  Once the piece's name came to me years later, I knew exactly where Aaron's bad luck would take him and what atrocities he would be forced to witness.  I believe the original story, however, ended with Pat Sajak fighting an octopus or something else completely absurd -- which may or may not have been a better ending (depending on who you'd ask, of course)."

Steven Gepp on "Second Chance": "I sat down and watched a TV show where some guy was given a second chance at life and everything turned out all hunky dory because he changed one decision as a rash youth. You know, uplifting and wonderful and enough to make most adults nauseous. Well, I got to thinking: what if the second chance did not result in entirely the desired result? It features a character who has made an appearance in a few tales -- Fur Animorum.  He's my Demon. This is his third anthology appearance, and he makes a nice understated villain. Well, villain-ish. He really only gives people what they want. And in this story -- 'Second Chance' -- he really does give Roscie Boom everything his heart desires. And then some."

D. G. Sutter on "Dust of the Earth":  "It was while I was editing the collection Alienology: Tales from the Void, for the former Library of the Living Dead, that I came up with the idea for "Dust of the Earth". My mind started to reel, thinking that humans weren't the only intelligent life. Why is it that we should be the solely blessed lifeforms to understand? In the billions of galaxies out there floating about, can there possibly be no others? "Dust of the Earth" developed from my fascination with what is unprodded, particularly with our own planet. What lies beneath the crust? Just how far down have we inspected, and do we truly care to know exactly what could be found? I did my research and thought it would be really neat if I could somehow incorporate archeology into a story dealing with things left undiscovered. Somehow, it seemed rather appropriate."

Mark Taylor on "Inc.": "I had a bad meeting. I work in company development and this suit turns up one day and tells me that they're not going to renew the contract: financial reasons. They can turn a bigger profit by downsizing the number of contractors they have. That was it. The money was gone. People were going to lose their jobs, and there wasn't anything I could do about it. 

Except kill the guy.

And that was where "Inc." was born. I wanted bloody revenge, and people get upset when I murder my co-workers. I've never understood why..."

Gerry Huntman on "Whatever Happens, Happens": "The idea for the story was pretty simple: I saw a wonderful photograph of an antique doll whose ceramic face was uniformly cracked. It was creepy and I immediately went into creative mode. While the supernatural nature of the doll was key, like many stories that blossom, the theme of the short moved elsewhere. I wanted this to be character-driven and have the POV character be loathed and sympathized with at the same time. The doll knitted the story together, tying the beginning, middle and ends into a cohesive whole. As always, I don't miss an opportunity to add something of myself, and in this case, the little girl who owned the doll is very much like my daughter, Erin, and (unfortunately), the rather malignant grandmother is reminiscent of my own experience as a toddler. All in all, this story came together quickly, and with a great deal of satisfaction."

Chris Samson on "Merrily, Merrily, Merrily": "This story actually has a very straightforward explanation.  I had a dream that I was on the perfect date with my punk-rock high school crush.  It was one of the most realistic dreams I’ve ever had.  When I woke, for a split-second I was consumed with an all-encompassing desire to get back and keep the dream going.  Later I began wondering what if I had gone back?  What if I got to continue with that wonderful dream every night?  Sleeping would soon become a highlight of my day, and I’d look forward to it more than anything else.  I had a passing familiarity with research on addiction and I began researching dopamine production as well. The pieces began falling into place.  The story was a perfect fit for my recurring heroine Morgan LeBell.  All I needed was a supernatural cause for this dream manipulation..."

Suzanne Robb on "Threshhold": "Threshold was the culmination of several things. A foreign film, an old book, and a documentary on haunted houses. I mashed them together and came up with an idea where something was trying to haunt the house, but couldn't quite make it inside. When the main character does cross the threshold after a rather gruesome confrontation, she is introduced to a nightmare world. Question is, does she belong there? You have to read the story to find out."