The cover of the story "Grave Digger"

Why I Wrote: Grave Digger

This post contains spoilers for my story “Grave Digger”, so if you haven’t read it yet head on over and give it a read. It’s short and it’s free! What are you waiting for? Here’s a link.

So you’ve read the story by now, right? Great.

So one day I’m driving and listening to the song Mellow Marmalade by Tash Sultana and I hear the lyrics “Grave digger, why don’t we slow it down?”. Although I’ve listened to this song hundreds of times and know she’s really saying “Baby girl, why don’t we slow it down?” I couldn’t help but hear it as “Grave digger” once.

1:04 for the line I’m talking about, if you’re curious

That’s all it takes, once you mishear that lyric one time it’s over. You’ll never hear it the same again. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, well, you’re lucky I guess.

The words Grave Digger stuck with me. The second I heard them (or thought I did) I knew it was the title of my next story. It’s always hard for me when I get the title first. There’s so many things that a title can be. I mention this in my “Why I Wrote: I’m All Alone and It’s Getting Dark” post as well.

When I already have the idea for a story; when I have a plot or a scenario worked out in my head the title comes naturally. It just makes sense.

Take “Lab Zero” for example. I have the idea for a story about a basement laboratory that’s off limits and the room number for that lab is zero.

Lab Zero seems like an obvious choice.

But when I have the title “Grave Digger” sitting in my head, there’s a lot of options.

So I thought about those words every day. I listened to that song multiple times a day hoping it would give me the inspiration I need (also it’s a damn good song). One day while I was driving, yet again, it came to me. Actually, my girlfriend was driving this time. I was just the passenger. Anyway, we were listening to music (unfortunately it was not Mellow Marmalade) and the story was just there.

I don’t think I was even thinking about Grave Digger for once; it just happened. It was probably the only moment I wasn’t thinking about it since I had that title stuck in my head (when I have a story idea I become obsessed and think about it a little too much).

I was so excited I finally had the plot for this story. The first thing that came to me was the graves. How something was digging them up. I knew there had to be some type of monster or mysterious figure as the culprit but I wasn’t entirely sure of what this being/figure would be.

It was time to sit down and write it; I did it in one sitting.

Not all that surprising, it’s really short. There was a lot of editing though. Weeks worth of it. I read “Grave Digger” so many times. I entirely rewrote the part with Beverly. I know her mentioning is still very brief but it’s much more than it used to be, trust me. Previously she was just mentioned in one line.

I feel I should mention that part with the sleep paralysis/not being able to move or talk is actually very real for me. I suffer from sleep paralysis from time to time and it’s not fun. Seeing shapes and human figures, which are sometimes incredibly vivid, is terrifying. Not being able to move a muscle or speak. You can’t ask the person lying next to you to snap you out of it. It’s such an awful feeling.

The end got rewritten too. I notice after having a few stories under my belt that I do that. I think I have changed the ending to every one of my stories so far besides Lab Zero. I even have a story that is still being worked on that has went through an ending change. The story I’m currently working on is actually the first short story I ever wrote, it’s just going through a lot of editing and will most likely be the next story I put out.

Originally the ending for “Grave Digger” was just that the main character died. That’s it. He was thrown in the grave, as usual. He had his memories sucked out just like how it ends now but that was it. He was just gone.

I really liked the idea of him becoming a part of the monster though, so I changed it and worked it in. Having his eyes become one with many others; having to live as a part of it for all eternity without even having his memories. He knows he existed at some point but to what extent? At this point all he knows is digging graves.

The irony.

Some amazing fan art based around Grave Digger!

If you liked Grave Digger (or this blog post), please check out my other stories here!

Cover of I'm All Alone and It's Getting Dark

Why I Wrote: I’m All Alone and It’s Getting Dark

This post will contain spoilers for the story “I’m All Alone and It’s Getting Dark”. Please consider reading the story before continuing. If spoilers don’t bother you then feel free to read on!

I’m All Alone and It’s getting Dark was a very different story for me. Almost every single one of my story ideas comes from envisioning a character in a situation and watching how it plays out in my mind.

After I have the story worked out it comes to writing it. Generally, partway into writing the story or even after i’m finished with it is when I come up with the title for the story.

I’m All Alone was different in this regard. The story title just popped into my head one day. I loved the title so much but couldn’t place what the plot was. I had a lot of trouble placing a character into a situation for this title. I never had the title first and it felt like I was starting in the wrong spot.

For the first time I had to sit down and think “what is this about?” rather than letting it flow out of me.

It wasn’t working. I had to let the story sit for awhile and focus on other things.

After a week or so had passed I sat back down and asked myself “when is it scary to be alone?”.

That’s when the idea first came to me.

Being alone as a child has to be one of the most terrifying things. You don’t understand a lot of what’s going on around you so you rely on adults to fill in the blanks. But what happens when there’s no one there to fill in the blanks?

I knew the story had to focus around a child as the main character. I had a lot of trouble deciding if the story should be third or first person. I eventually went with first person. I really liked the idea of being able to get deep into the mind of a child and what they would be thinking in terrifying situations.

Also, I liked the idea of it being first person because this gave me a lot of room to work with the idea of the story being vague when it comes to the intruder. Is this a child’s imagination making the intruder seem like a monster or is there really a monster in the house?

I also wrote the entire story in past tense but felt that it was less scary that way, so I went back and rewrote the entire thing in the present tense.

After I had the idea of the story set up it was easy to envision what this little boy’s plan of action would be. I wanted every move to feel childlike and I wanted the story to unfold quickly. A lot of the time things play out much faster than you’d expect.

Maybe a little bit of my childhood leaked into this story too. I was a little too young to remember this event very well but when I was a child armed robbers broke into my house, pistol whipped my dad and tied him up. My mom wasn’t home but my older brother was and he remembers it much better than I do. They threw the phone down the stairs into the basement and my brother had to go get it when they left.

All of this seemed to happen incredibly fast.

It’s a connection I haven’t really thought much about but i’m sure there’s some significance between my story and this. Honestly, I haven’t thought about the connection until I started writing this section of “Why I Wrote”. There are a lot of similarities that I’m only now realizing.

Obviously intruders in a house is the elephant in the room. A further example would be my brother having to go get the phone from the basement so my father could call the police. This is very reminiscent of the boy in my story having to go to the cellar to get Amanda’s cell phone to call for help.

Speaking of the cellar, the cellar scene is my absolute favorite part of the story. I had a lot of trouble deciding if I should write the cellar in or not but I really wanted it to be there. I did a lot of thinking about if someone would have a cellar in their kitchen or not and eventually I said “fuck it! I want a cellar scene.”.

It ended up being, in my opinion, the creepiest thing I have written in any of my stories so far. I can’t wait to top this scene.

The idea of him using a dead girls finger to access her phone was really fucked up to me. My google search history definitely looked a little crazy after doing some research on if this would work or not.

The boy calling the babysitters mom felt like something a child would do on accident. Seeing an entry for “Mom” and calling them thinking it would be their mother.

This also holds my favorite Roosevelt scene. The part where you really are thinking “is this all his imagination or is there more to this?”.

Speaking of Roosevelt, Roosevelt as a character just felt right. When I first started writing the story I imagined the child getting scared and going back to grab a toy to feel safer. I couldn’t help but make him a character that acts as a guide to fill in the blanks for him.

Roosevelt was a placeholder name that I ended up really liking so I kept it. Obviously it’s a bit of a joke. A teddy-bear named Roosevelt… Teddy Roosevelt. But i’m sure you picked that up by now.

Anyway. He ended up being much larger of a character (especially in the cellar) than I initially intended. I almost wrote him out at one point too.

When I first finished writing “I’m All Alone” I hated it. I almost deleted the file and moved on. After writing other stories I went back to edit it, and man did I edit.

I edited the story so much it was ridiculous. This was the point that I decided to make it present tense rather than past tense. I almost removed Roosevelt but decided against it. I changed the dialogue and how they interact with each other quite a bit. I took every single scene that is creepy or scary and made it creepier and scarier. I changed the ending.

Originally the intruder gets shot and falls out of the window and gets away. A kind of Michael Myers from the first Halloween thing going on. Then I changed it to the boy climbing out of the window to get further away from the intruder.

I fell in love with the story while editing. It was really strange to me because it was my least favorite story I had written up to that point but it quickly became my favorite with a little work. I loved editing this story.

This story taught me that something doesn’t have to be perfect right from the start. It taught me how powerful editing is and how much I can make something really shine with a little bit of polish.

If you liked I’m All Alone and It’s Getting Dark please check out my other stories on Amazon!

Cover for the short story Lab Zero

Why I Wrote: Lab Zero

Edit 9/8/16: The promotional period for Lab Zero has ended. Please consider reading the story before this post as there will be major spoilers ahead.

If spoilers don’t bother you, feel free to read on.

A dent slammed into one of the doors, rattling the frames. A screw fell from a hinge clanking on the floor. Something was on the other side trying to get out. It screamed and howled. I was leaving. Fuck it. Fuck Lindsay. My curiosity about Lab Zero was completely gone now. I sprinted up the spiraling stairway to the first floor. Skipping four steps at a time. Each step a leap of faith. This is the part where I trip. I’m stuck on the stairs. The doors open slowly and something slithers out. The doors hinges cry and mourn for me. It wraps a tentacle around my ankle and pulls me into the basement. Never to be seen again. Feed another intern to Lab Zero.

-An excerpt from Lab Zero

Lab Zero is an interesting story to me considering I came up with the idea while interning at a National Laboratory. I had been interning there for nearly two years (which is much longer than most interns) before I started writing it. Interns were generally around for two or three months before they were done with their program/project.

Needless to say I saw a lot of faces come and go, which became a major theme for the story.

I won’t go into too much detail about my project but here’s a few pictures of things I worked on at the lab:

The left photo is a 90-liter glass reactor that mixes our chemicals together. The various solid chemicals mixed with liquid causes a mushroom cloud effect after it has been mixed for a short amount of time (I threw that in there because I think it’s neat). After it is completely mixed it will be as clear as water, which is shown on the top right. The final picture is a picture of myself holding a UV light up to the same clear liquid which causes it to glow a neon blue.

If you have questions about my research, feel free to ask. I just won’t go into the details in this blog post.

In my time at the lab I had explored the building quite a bit. It was a three story building. My lab was the third floor. The lab numbers went as follows: First floor was the 100’s, second floor was the 200’s and third floor was the 300’s. So naturally the basement would be “0”, right?

When I had first started my project there I had never been to the basement, so one day I decided to go down and have a look. When I went down the spiraling stairs to the basement there was no “0” painted on the wall. Just large steel double doors with a notice that only personnel with certain credentials were allowed to enter and a plaque over-viewing the necessary PPE (personal protective equipment) to enter.

Safety shoes were required.

Now at this point I was fairly new as an intern so I really didn’t want to get in trouble for going somewhere I wasn’t supposed to. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder what was behind those doors. Also, if you have read my blog “How Fiction Found Me: Why I Started Reading and Writing” you know how my imagination can run wild with these ideas. I thought about the basement a lot while I was doing my research.

I imagined a monster down there. I imagined all those faces of interns who were long forgotten. How they really were food for it to grow stronger. Or maybe they were the monster. It was a story I had to write.

I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted the monster to be at first but as I ran through the story in my mind a Chimera of some kind was what fit the best. I loved the idea of the missing interns being made into a terrifying creature and that the protagonist may just be the last piece of it.

Although I thought about the plot for this story a lot before I started writing it I wasn’t sure exactly where I was going with it. I didn’t know how to start or end it. When I finally found the inspiration to start writing I just wrote and let the story tell itself. It was really interesting because ideas I really liked seemed to not fit at all with the theme and never found a place in my story.

For example, I wanted Lindsay to be more of a main character but when I started to write it really didn’t seem to fit. Also, I didn’t want to make the story too long or feel like I was going too far in one direction just to turn it around and go another direction. I also feel I should say that Lindsay is a completely made up character.

In the story I purposely never gave description to the protagonist or expanded on what the relationship between Lindsay and the protagonist was like. I left that open ended so the reader can make their own image of whether or not they were friends or lovers (straight or otherwise) etc. The protagonist’s gender, name and features are never said for this reason.

This wasn’t an idea I originally had for the story, it just ended up finding its way in there.

One thing I knew that had to be in the story was some form of chemical reaction helping defeat the Chimera. I always worked with highly flammable chemicals that had to be stored in flammables cabinets like this:

Picture of two large flammable cabinets placed in the corner of a laboratory room.

Ethanol and methanol were used a lot on a daily basis and it seemed like a good fit for the story. When I originally wrote the methanol fire scene I wrote it as if it were a completely regular fire. After reading the first draft of the story I realized my mistake. Methanol fires are essentially invisible if there’s light. This was something that I had to do a lot of research on to make sure I was writing up the scene as accurately as possible to what would happen in a real life methanol fire.

The rest of the story panned out much quicker than I initially imagined it would. Everything that happens after the fire starts are things that I imagine I would do if I had to defend myself from this beast. The machine shop is the place i’d imagine there would be a decent weapon to use. The on-site fire department would arrive within minutes of the fire alarm sounding.

We actually had a day where the fire alarm was malfunctioning and went off 5 or 6 times when there weren’t any fires. The fire department had to show up every time and their response time really impressed me, so this part of the story isn’t exaggerated at all with how quickly they arrive.

To answer what was in the real basement, i’m sorry to say it’s pretty boring. It turns out my mentor had some chemicals stored down there. He asked if I could go find them and so I embarked on my first adventure to the basement. I was actually pretty excited and was really hoping it would give me more ideas for my story.

It was pretty much the same as the rest of the building, the only difference being it was underground. There were some parts that reminded me of the ending scene of Terminator 2. There were stairs going up to electrical boxes and whatnot that looked almost identical to the metal-grated stairs from Terminator 2’s steel mill, the ones the T-1000 kind of melts into.

Terminator 2's T-1000 terminator's feet melting into grated metal floor
T-1000 melting into grated metal for reference

As a final note, the stories main character holds a lot of resentment towards the people he works for and I would like to take a minute to let it to be known that I don’t actually feel that way about the lab I worked in. My mentor was wonderful to work with and I will always appreciate everything he has done for me. With that said, I did find that science was not for me and chose a different route in my life.

A picture of my standing in-front of a large distillator.
Bonus picture of me with our lab’s distillation apparatus. I had worked with this machine for months. I took this picture on my last day at the lab as a goodbye.
This picture is a bit of a joke and I have an actual picture of me standing in-front of it not being a goof.

How Fiction Found Me: Why I Started Reading and Writing

You would think someone with a passion for writing, a passion so strong you want your whole life to revolve around it, is something that had always been there. You would think they always loved reading and writing. That every day they’d wake up and start jotting down story ideas. They’d be woken up late at night from the sound of their book slipping our of their hand and slapping the floor.

That’s not how it was for me. I never thought about writing a novel until I was about 20. I didn’t get into reading until that age either.

I found it hard to get into the books they made us read in school. Whatever we wrote in school was mind numbing. School itself was mind numbing. I hated everything about school and reading and writing.

So how did I find myself writing suspense and horror stories? Why did I start publishing them for the world to read? Well, it started with reading. Stephen King specifically. But not horror or suspense.

I was working a dead end job. The people I worked with were great. The job was not. A co-worker recommended me The Dark Tower by Stephen King one day. I’m not even sure why.

He gave me a quick rundown of the plot for The Gunslinger. The first of a series of 7 (8 if you count Wind Through the Keyhole). I went out and picked it up from a Barnes & Noble that day when my shift ended. I nearly finished the first book that night.

From that moment on I was hooked. I read all 8 of The Dark Tower books. Then I branched out in to King’s horror. IT, Carrie, The Shining (granted I’d seen the movie. Who hasn’t?), Salem’s Lot and my personal favorite, Pet Sematary.

Then I tried Dean Koontz’s Watchers. I started branching out in to other authors and genres. I’d found a whole new world at the age of 20 because of the single recommendation of someone at work. If it weren’t for them, I might have never started reading.

As I found myself bored at work I could only think of the book I had been reading. The book I was going to read next. The books I’d already read.

Then my own ideas started coming to me. I had created an exercise to make my work days go faster. When I’d have down time I’d make up a story from nothing.

First I’d make up a character in my mind. Just visual, no names. Then I’d put them in a scene. A house for example. I’d visualize them walking through the house. Maybe the basement door would open a few inches. Hissing noises working it’s way up the stairs. Would they go down? What would they find when they made the basements rotting steps creak and moan?

I started to do this every day. Stories would come and go so quickly that I never gave them much thought after the day was gone. That is until one day I got stuck on a story.

Not in the sense that I didn’t know what the character was doing. It was the first story that I went back to the next day. And the next day… and the next week. Then the next month. I thought about it for years. I worked out an entire plot in my mind.

I thought that I should write it. I never found the inspiration to do it. I always told myself that I can’t do it. That I’d ruin it if I did. That no one would read it. If I’m honest. I still haven’t written it. I’ve written parts of it. I will finish it one day.

The thing is. I’m not afraid of any of those things anymore. The reason I haven’t written it is I met someone. I met someone who encouraged me so much to follow my dreams. My girlfriend inspires me to be the best I can every single day and supports me so much.

She’s the reason I haven’t written that story yet. But she’s also the reason I’ve written so many others. Why I have a few published on Amazon right now. If it weren’t for her inspiration those stories would not exist. When she first really encouraged me to write I found that I had so many other ideas that really stuck like that first one.

I had to get a notebook to carry everywhere I go just in case one pops into my head. I feel like I could see a train go by and have a story idea explode in my skull.

I could hardly sleep at night because I couldn’t wait to write more. I didn’t even want to edit my stories because I just wanted to write the next ones.

I went from someone who never saw themselves sitting down and reading a book, to someone who can’t stop. I can’t stop writing. I can’t stop reading. These ideas just work their way in constantly and I feel like I have to get them out.

I’m so happy that people want to read my stories, and one of my favorite things is hearing what people think of them. Yet I still just write for me. I love having an idea and figuring out how it ends.

When I have an idea for a story it generally has no end. I have an idea for a theme or plot and I just start hammering away at it. It’s almost like watching a movie. Envisioning what the characters are doing. What they’d do next.

Writing a story for me is much like reading one. I feel like it hardly makes sense to say it, but it makes so much sense at the same time. It’s thrilling to learn what my characters will do.

At 25 I’ve finally found a passion. Five years of dreaming about writing until I finally started doing it and I couldn’t be happier.

You can find my writing here on Amazon.