Friday, December 19, 2014


In late 2012, while giving my then-Writing Room a dusting in readiness for our annual writers' group Christmas party, the idea for a new story hit in one of those very cool Eureka! moments.  I saw, quite clearly, a dusty room...only the dust, of which dead human skin is a major component, wasn't entirely lifeless.  Flesh had formed on the walls.  Something within that old house was growing in patches, trying to join together, to be resurrected.  "Uncle Sharlevoix's Epidermis" was born. A few weeks later, I landed for a second visit to When Words Count Writing Retreat Center in Vermont, where I taught a day-long workshop on living a literary life and, as blizzards socked us in for the new year, I completed the first draft of the story. During that wonderful time at the retreat center (where another short story and a novella were completed and much gourmet food was enjoyed), I received the phone call that confirmed our offer on the house we sought to purchase had been accepted -- a joyous but also distracting blessing.  When I returned home, the longhand draft went into a packing carton, and there it stayed until after we landed at our new/old New Englander in New Hampshire's North Country, Xanadu. Flash forward to this past August when, on a Friday night following a long day of writing on Xanadu's sun porch, I received notification that Mark Parker of Scarlet Galleon Publications had happily accepted the story for Dead Harvest.  The collection contains stories by some of the biggest names in horror -- fifty tales in all, with the book weighing in at a hefty/gargantuan 690 pages!

Many of my fellow contributors in the Dead Harvest Table of Contents shared the back-stories behind their stories.

E. G. Smith on "Autumn Lamb":  "The story was inspired by living in rural, Southwestern Idaho, where the friendly residents are easily outnumbered by both livestock and guns.  Millard is the stubborn first-cousin of many of the old farmers I've met around here.  He was originally going to be modeled closely on a good old boy neighbor who calls me up now and then to offer free bales of straw and tell semi-lewd jokes, but that quirk didn't fit the tone of the story and was left on the cutting room floor. I've raised goats (not sheep) and know what it's like to deal with a fox in the middle of a wintery night. Unlike gun-happy Millard, I adopted a gigantic Pyrenees-Bernard mix livestock guard dog, Hoss, who scares the predators away without any bloodshed, red or yellow."

Brian Kirk on "Seeds of Change":  "While I don't buy into the idea that the world is run by some secret Illuminati-like cult, I often wonder about the direction our society is heading in, how it's being guided, and by whom.  It seems like major decisions are being made that impact the masses without any concern over whether or not citizens agree with them, or attempt to get a consensus vote.  Placing nuclear reactors on fault lines is such an example.  As is genetically modifying our food.  We don't know the long-term effects of ingesting genetically-altered food, but Vice magazine recently published an article suggesting that GMO corn was causing farmers to become suicidal.  That worries me, and helped inspire my tragic story."

Jordan Phelps on "Beyond the Trees":  "This story began with a sharp contrast that just wouldn’t leave my head until I put it on paper. I saw a bustling festival in a large field -- there were bright lights, cheap rides, and wonderful smells. But most of all, there was joy. In the back corner of the festival, there was a stereotypical haunted house in which things jumped out at you, but nothing scary ever really happened. Behind all of this, there was the forest: a giant wall of shadows and claw-like branches that watched and waited behind the scenes. It began with this image, and with a young girl named Jane who had to see. From there, it explored the unknown: the differences between adults and children in dealing with it, the deep, primal fear it can bring forth without an ounce of shock value, and the horror of having no one to turn to when it chooses to present itself."

C. M. Saunders on "Harberry Close":  "Until quite recently, I lived in East London and worked in the south-west. That meant a near two-hour journey through one of the busiest cities in the world, during rush hour, twice a day. That journey used to drive me mad, with all the pushing, shoving, and elevated stress levels. It wasn't an easy route, either. A typical commute consisted of a fifteen-minute walk, two subway trains, an overground train, and a bus. If the weather was bad, or if there was some kind of strike or other disruption, it could easily add half an hour or more to my journey, which meant I would arrive at work late, then have to stay late to make the time back. I'm sure you get the picture. Anyway, the mid-way point in the journey was Waterloo station. I actually quite like Waterloo. It's one of London's nicer transport hubs. As I waited on the platform for my train every morning, I often found myself wondering what would happen if I somehow got on the wrong train. And where that wrong train may take me. Maybe somewhere like Harberry Close?"

Lori R. Lopez on “Cornstalker”:  “My stories and novels can originate from an image, a scrap of an idea, a full-blown plot unrolling in my head faster than I can scribble it down, or -- as in the case with ‘Cornstalker’ -- a single title, phrase, or word.  I came up with this pretty neat title, as I like to play with words, then immediately began to envision a creature stalking the corn, very large and imposing.  A back-story took shape involving a fictitious Native-American tribe.  This was some years ago, possibly ten or fifteen.  I’m not sure how many.  I have a number of ideas like that stuffed in a figurative closet, waiting for me to get back to them.  When I was kindly asked by Mark Parker to contribute something to Dead Harvest, it clicked that the time had come for this tale to be written.  While doing so, I had to pause and conduct research, including how to drive a semi-truck.  I don’t even drive a car.  I learned once.  That was years ago, too.  I’ve forgotten.  Well, semis are more complicated.  I didn’t actually go physically drive one, although that would have been cool.  It was all in my head, and boy, it was quite an adventure!”

Patrick Lacey on "Mrs. Alto's Garden":  "A few years back, I moved out of my childhood home of twenty-five years. As I left the backyard for the last time, I thought about how many animals had been buried there. There were countless goldfish, several cats, a hamster, and even a few lizards. Seemingly from nowhere, the location of most great ideas, I thought of oddly shaped flowers and vegetables growing from the spots where my pets now rested. It was a troubling thought, one that stuck with me for a long time. I knew I wanted to use it for a story one day but I couldn’t think of any characters or plots. Eventually, the idea blossomed (pun most definitely intended) and what resulted was 'Mrs. Alto’s Garden.' Happy Harvesting!"

Andrew Bell on "Extreme Times, Extreme Measures":  "My story isn't about scarecrows, cornfields, or farmers with funny accents.  Autumn for me is the ending of an era, the death of a character to make room for a better, stronger more confident person.  Someone who isn't going to be the butt of all jokes any longer.  I used to know kids at school who would do almost anything to fit in, to be accepted no matter what; even push some poor, unsuspecting fellow pupil into the incoming traffic on a busy road -- I knew such kids.  We all did.  And sadly, I think this overwhelming desire drifts on into adulthood.  So I thought: how far would someone be willing to go to prove themselves?  I come from a small town on the northeast coast of England called Hartlepool.  It is a town heavily reliant upon industry; steelworks, factories, power plants...a very bleak place which never seems to shake off the dark cloud hanging over it.  And although the story is not set here, it is based upon it.  It is a story based upon coldness, paranoia, and confrontation.  Finality."

Jeremy Peterson on "The Truth":  "In 2011, a friend of mine asked me to submit a story for a horror anthology based on the civil war. I’m no history buff, but it sounded like fun so I decided to give it a shot. In my mind’s eye, I saw a cowardly soldier abandoning his unit during a battle and hiding in a cornfield. A decent start perhaps, but where was the horror? At a loss, I asked my fourteen-year-old son what kind of terror you might find in a cornfield. How about the devil, he said. Of course my son would suggest the devil, I thought, we did name him Damian after all! So I gave him a big hug and gently shoved him out of the room, ‘cause daddy had a story to write. That is how my story, ‘The Truth’, came to be. That first publishing house accepted the story but they folded before the anthology went to press. So I tucked it away, wondering what I would ever do with a civil war story. Then one morning I spotted a call for Scarlet Galleon Publications’ Dead Harvest and the rest is history. It’s no, ‘The Devil and Tom Walker’, or ‘The Man in the Black Suit’, but I enjoyed writing it and I hope you all enjoy reading it."

Aaron Gudmunson on "The Guest":  "At some point in grade school, I recall reading a story in which the Queen of England unexpectedly visits a peasant's cottage on the outskirts of a poor village (I can't recall the title of the story, but if anyone knows what I'm talking about I'd love to reread it!). I always wondered how that would translate in America and thus the idea behind ‘The Guest’ formed. The story has been percolating in my brain for years and I finally wrote it one autumn weekend before the last presidential election. Some readers have asked me if there is any hidden political message within the story and I always answer that there is if you want there to be. Really, though, it's simply a speculative story about the anonymity of modern America -- how literally anyone can be mistaken for someone else these days…even the most powerful man in the world."


  1. Thank you everyone for contributing to this. As a reader I always love learning what the impetus for a story was. Stephen King tends to share such things in his collected works and I always look forward to getting 'the scoop.' These entries are great. And, thank you again Greg, for spearheading this blog entry. It's very much appreciated.

    1. Glad the post was well received! I, too, love knowing some of the insight into a story's back-story. Maybe I'm in the minority, but I never did pander to that whole we're-not-supposed-to-ask-where-ideas-come-from thing. I find the genesis and evolution of writing fascinating!

  2. Thanks for including me, Gregory! And I agree, it is very interesting what inspires an idea for a story! It's a story in itself! :)

    1. Fabulous Lori, the pleasure was mine -- can't wait to read your story when my contrib copy arrives. Keep creating!