When I was a little boy, all bright-eyed and full of wonder about what the future would hold for me, I never would have thought that 20 years later I’d end up in virtually the same place. I foresaw a Mars landing in my future. A metamorphosis into some kind of intergalactic hero a la Buck Rogers. I’d do that after I rescued a few damsels in distress and put away some bad guys while wearing trademark yellow Dick Tracy coat and hat. Perhaps I’d even swing across the rooftops of a place not unlike Gotham City and do harmless battle, invincible to any effects the Joker could throw my way, because I was a kid, and that’s what we were. Invincible.
My list of fantasies were my reality, and life was a long enough time to experience them for real. Unfortunately, life can do a lot to knock those dreams out of you. But in my case, an unfaithful ex-wife, several missed opportunities, and other unexpected losses along the way have not been enough to take away one dream from the 10-year old boy that still resides somewhere in my psyche. When I’m not busy writing things that keep the lights on, usually for other people, and usually stuff that’s a lot more of a job to me than I would care for it to be, I let the child out to play, and he writes some pretty dastardly, horrific things, some of which you will see when my debut horror novel THE CONGREGATION lands with Kindle, iBooks, and Barnes and Noble in October.
Every scrap of torn flesh, each drop of spurting blood, can trace its roots back to a single comic book that my father allowed me to have one summer day about 20 years ago. I’d heard of the old movie TALES FROM THE CRYPT. I’d also heard that HBO would be doing a TV show of the same name. I was excited about the possibilities, but it wasn’t until I saw an old Gladstone Comics reprint on the newsstand of my local Waldenbooks that it would come to me this was, in fact, the original source material. TFTC was a comic book before it was anything else, and here I was holding a beautifully rendered full color reprint on cheap newsprint and standard four-color cover. The Jack Davis werewolf drawing, the corpse stretched across a tombstone under moonlight, was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen. I couldn’t wait to get home and tear through every last page of it.
And that’s what I did. Along the way, I read about a group of poor Hungarian immigrants accused of lycanthropy by a bigoted sheriff. (I actually learned “lycanthropy” was the technical term for werewolf from this book.) The tragic twist of fate that closed the story left me stunned and excited to move on to the next story. “Midnight Mess,” the Vault-Keeper’s offering, was a cozy little small town vampire story with another glorious twist ending that all but took my mind off the fact that there was more than just the Crypt-Keeper in this book. The next tale was one of a cheating spouse looking for a way out and finding that murder was the only way to do it. In the end, just desserts were served. Such was also the case in “This Wraps it Up,” a fast-paced and exciting mummy story.
Beyond these stories, there was a reprint of CRIME SUSPENSTORIES in the back 32 pages. It was filled with more of the same kind of lurid tales, each with a twist at the end I didn’t see coming. When I finished those 32 pages, I went right back to the front of the book and tore through them all again, focusing on advertisements for other books and old Crypt-Keeper’s hilarious verbiage in the letter column.
My whole life I’ve been drawn to horror movies, but this one day is when the dream to become a horror author was born. It’s something I’ll do for the rest of my life, whether I make a dime from it or not. It’s a passion and it was born to me on that hot summer day in our dearly departed bookstore. A lot has changed for me, and a lot has changed for publishing, in the last 20 years. I feel the biggest changes are yet to come, and I’m hopeful of where they’ll take us all on this journey into the future. But the one thing that hasn’t changed is that little tinge of excitement that I still get whenever I break open that old comic book and relive those stories that awakened my creative spirit and showed me how truly fun the world could be through blood colored glasses.
What is your passion, writers? What do you love to write about, and where did it begin for you? I’d love to hear the stories behind the stories. Feel free to share them below.