Here’s a select list of some of the stories I’ve had published.
“The DEATH/GRIP Challenge” – Strange Horizons, May 18 2020
Remember the “Bird Box Challenge“? That was pretty much the seed for this story. Looking back at my notes, here’s what I had first came up with before really developing it:
“Viral social media “challenge” related to a classically bad, amateurishly made film (think The Room or Bad Men) whose director claimed was “misunderstood.” Rumor states that during a certain scene you will be compelled to look behind you, but if you do, something “unspeakable” will happen to you.”
I had forgotten that this was the original idea. A lot of changes were made to this well before I submitted it. I might still try to write this alternate version of the story someday. The challenge was reconsidered (I took some obvious inspiration from Clive Barker’s “The Body Politic,” among many other similar horror stories) and a lot of focus I originally had on the movie-within-the-story was left out of the version I was finally happy with before I started submitting it. It then went through some helpful editing after acceptance (much thanks to Catherine Krahe of Strange Horizons). I’m incredibly happy with and proud of this story. I like its characters, I like its humor. I like that the grand-horror-finale I planned for it ended up making a greater impact on me by being at least as heartbreaking as it is potentially pulse-pounding.
“A Story Overheard in a Room” – The NoSleep Podcast – Season 14, Episode 13
So… it’s May 10th, 2020, and I’m having what is easily the best year of my writing career. I’ve had my first pro sales–multiple sales–within a few months of each other, and landed in the biggest markets I’ve ever been in. I think I’m writing the best short stories I’ve ever put to page. And, oh yes, I finished my novel manuscript. And finally got the gumption to launch a podcast idea I’d been sitting on for a few years.
I’m a long way away from having “made it,” but I’m at least beginning to get a taste of my dreams… while the world experiences the global nightmare of a pandemic. It’s a strange time to want to feel happy for one’s accomplishments.
I’m in the lead off position–the first damn story!–of Episode lucky 13 from Season 14 of the ever-excellent NoSleep Podcast. It’s a story I thought of while on the road for my 9 to 5 in a motel room similar to the one from the story. I was having a sleepless night and turned on the television late, and happened upon a horror flick. At one point someone in the movie screamed and I jokingly thought, “I better turn the volume down or someone in the next room might think I’m killing someone in here.” Then, as I often do, I next thought, “Maybe that could be a story.”
I listen to a decent amount of Golden Age Radio horror stories (Lights Out, Quiet, Please!, etc.) and went for that vibe–modernized–with this one, so I think it fits very well in the catalog of The NoSleepl Podcast. It’s one of those stories that just hits you while you’re doing something mundane, and just blooms from there.
“Safety in Numbers” – On the Premises Issue #35
Second place out of 240 entries. I’ll definitely take it, especially considering I had been trying to place this story for years. Too much of a crime story to be considered horror or spec, too weird to just be a crime story, I got a lot of positive responses over the course of many, many submissions, but never found a place willing to call it home until the judges and editors at On the Premises took enough of a liking to it to put it in their zine. Can’t thank them enough.
Personally, I love this story. I don’t get a lot of ideas that suit this style of crime writing, and I think it’s some of my best work. It’s fun, it’s funny, it’s intense…it’s one of my favorites. I won’t get into the inspiration behind it here, as it should be clear from the story itself.
“ffuns” – Pseudopod – Episode 692
I have a spreadsheet where I make notes for short story ideas. I don’t keep up with it nearly as well as I should. Upon revisiting it once after a particularly long period of neglect, I saw a note for a story idea that just said, “Reverse snuff film.” That’s it. I couldn’t remember what else I had planned for the story or how it had even popped into my head, but I felt compelled to make a legitimate story out of it. Turned out to be one of my better works thus far, I think. Once upon a time this initial idea probably had a more interesting backstory, but no longer.
For the crime elements of it, however, I did take some inspiration from the film Widows. None of it actually made it to the story’s final draft, but it’s always good to know certain character and story details when you’re writing, I think, even if they don’t get to the finished piece.
This one made the preliminary ballot of the Stoker Award for Short Fiction in 2020. Didn’t make the final ballot, which would have made me an official “nominee,” but it was good to get close. Just makes me want to get closer next time. Back to work.
I’m thankful for this story on multiple levels: it allowed me to merge a horror story with some crime fiction elements, which I’ve been longing to do, and it was my first pro sale. Thanks to Cherrae L. Stuart for the narration.
When I was very young, my parents let me host a Halloween party, which, of course, meant that they had to put in a lot of the work by putting up decorations and buying atmosphere-establishing music, while I “helped” by mostly being in the way.
The record they bought featured some appropriately haunting music and sound effects. At one point, a man’s voice on the record cried out, “Don’t cross the bridge! Don’t cross the bridge!” Nothing before or after that point in the record made any mention of a bridge, or provided any context for his warning. It came out of nowhere, apropos of nothing, and that made it so much more frightening for me.
One of the earliest short stories I wrote as an adult was based on this single line that stuck in my memory. I remembered one long drive across the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, when a heavy rain reduced visibility, that felt particularly tense, and tried to replicate that feeling in a story. Unfortunately, this was when I was just starting to take writing seriously, so the story wasn’t any good. Since then, I’ve improved and had the fortune of having some stories published, so I decided to try my hand at a haunting bridge-crossing again, this time switching the setting to the Atchafalya Basin Bridge, which my family crossed at least twice a year when I was a kid. I also updated the story to feature a handy, horrifying phone app.
“The Genie and the Inquisitor” – Fantasy Scroll Magazine issue #10
Same old story: man meets genie; genie offers man three wishes; man presses genie for answers that cause the situation to turn quickly, and turn ugly. I’d been sitting on this story idea for a long time, even though it isn’t terribly complicated. Nonetheless, I didn’t sit down and actually write it until the summer of 2014 when I was out of state visiting relatives. After three or four rewrites and touch-ups, I sent it out into the world, where it found a home at Fantasy Scroll Mag.
“Giving Grounds” – Arkham Tales issue #8
I know some writers who hate the question of “where do you get your ideas?” I love it, even though sometimes the answer is relatively uninteresting or embarrassing. The idea for “Giving Grounds” sprouted (pun unintended, probably) from a throwaway joke from an episode of Family Guy of all things. I’m not a huge fan of the show, but there was an episode where the family was sent to live in the south in the Witness Protection program. Inside their new home, the son finds a hand inside a jar and says he’s going to plant it outside to see if a human grows. Because I’m a horror writer, my mind immediately latched onto the interesting, grotesque idea of growing a human being through traditional agriculture. And so from a lowbrow animated sitcom, a grim, serious short story was born.
“Miss Branson Calling” – Pseudopod – Episode 97
This is the first story I ever sold that was based on a nightmare. I actually used to work with the lady Miss Branson was based on. An eccentric chain smoking, overall harmless elderly woman who coughed like she had a lagoon in her lungs and had skin that seemed like it might disintegrate at any second. Based on the comments, many of the Pseudopod fans didn’t care much for this one, but I think it’s a solid effort at trying to draw fear from something that’s more melancholy than aggressively terrifying.
Will Erickson over at TooMuchHorrorFiction recently coined the term “Heartbreak Horror,” and I think that term fits this story.
“Thanks For Using Forced Honesty Assassinations” – From the Asylum
Damn shame that From the Asylum is closed, because they housed some excellent stories during the years that they were open. I had been trying to break into their ranks for a while before they finally accepted this flash fiction piece. I really like this story, short as it is. I can’t remember where the idea came from, but I love this piece, brief as it is.
“Civilized Monsters” – Pseudopod – Episode 23
I received a lot of comments about how graphic this story was, which sort of surprised me. I actually tend to think myself a bit squeamish and don’t think I lingered on any exceedingly gruesome parts here. Could it be that I’m mistaken? Me? Perish the thought. Can’t remember where I got this idea from. If I could go back and touch up some parts here and there I would, but I still like this story, particularly the ending.