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." 

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