Friday, May 30, 2014

Accidental Demon Slayers: Daughter of Darkness pt. 24

 The tunnel into the last cavern was shorter, and it hadn’t allowed Clare enough time to brace herself for what she was about to see. 

The cavern was mostly empty, with the exception of a few stone pillars that jutted out of the water.  Most of the pillars were cracked in half, creating small platforms for the residents of the cavern to reside.  The whole room was bathed in pink and red light. 

As she took everything in she wasn’t sure if she should be laughing, or screaming.  The scenes laid out on top of the pillars were so perverse, so pornographic, that her mind could barely take it all in. 

One pillar featured two of the creatures from the previous cavern dissecting one of the mermaids.  Her chest was ripped open, and fountains of water, lit bright red, shot from her innards as their little mechanical arms slashed at her.  On another a cherub was bent over, an arrow jutting out of it’s back, and an elf was mounting it from behind.

As the boat floated on, more pillars were revealed, each one more vile then the last.

The music from before was replaced with the loud roar of an orgy.  The room was filled with screams.  Some sounded like screams of ecstasy, but others… others were cries of pain.

Clare looked away, turning her attention to Max. 

“What is this?”  Max looked dumb founded.  “Who the hell would build something like this?  How has no one complained about it?” 

“I… I don’t think it’s always like this Max.”  She closed her eyes. 

“What do you…” He froze.  “Oh God, what’s going to happen when the boat stops?” 

As if on cue, the boat came to a halt.

The scenes on the pillars suddenly became more frenzied, more violent.  Clare could hear the sound of crazed, high-pitched laughter, horrible screams of pain.  Then, as the whole nightmare reached it’s climax, everything froze. 

There was a loud thunderclap, and water began to pour down from the ceiling in a violent rainstorm.  In a matter of seconds both Clare and Max were drenched.  There was something odd about the water, though.

The water was warm, and thick.  Clare looked at her hands.  It wasn’t water.  It was blood.  Blood was raining down on them from ceiling. 

She looked up and could see that all of the figures in the room, every single one of them, were looking right at the boat.  The mermaid who had early been dissected was sitting up, her guts hanging down, nestled in the top of her fin.  Her attackers, those fuzzy little bastards with the long knives, stood, blades at their sides.  The cherub was standing now, the tip of the arrow visible through his chest, and the elf stood behind, it’s pants still around it’s ankles.  All eyes were on Clare and Max. 

Then the laughter began.  Softly, at firstly, like a chuckle.  Quickly it was a riotous cacophony of sound that seemed to echo off the cavern’s walls. 

“One has come home, but where are the rest?”  The chanting seemed to filter through the laughter.  “One has come home, but where are the rest?  The Nameless want them home!” 

The chanting grew louder, and the figures all through their heads back, their mouths open.  The sound seemed to grow to an almost deafening level, and Clare was forced to cover her ears. 

Then it all stopped.  The room went dark.

The boat moved with a hard jerk that sent both Clare and Max flying back into their seats.  They moved through the darkness quickly, as if rushing down a wild rapids.  The boat bopped and bounced, the sides crashing into the sides of the tunnel.  Clare and Max were tossed from side to side, and a few times Clare feared she was about to go overboard. 

Then there was sunlight. 

The boat pulled gently through the wooden, heart cutout, and back to the dock, moving as if nothing had ever happened. 

When the boat reached the dock, both Clare and Max scrambled to get out.  Clare began to brush at her clothes, trying to wipe some of the blood away, but when her hands touched the fabric of her shirt, she found it dry. 

“What the hell?”  Max looked at her, than glanced down at himself. 

“Whatever is infecting this place is sick.”  She glanced back at the ride, and she swore she heard the sound of high-pitched laughter.  “Really fricken sick.”

“Shit!” Max began to frantically look around. 

“What?”  Clare was still trying to get over the shock after their little love cruise. 

“My camera!  I lost my camera!”  Max scrambled back over to the boat.  He knelt down the dock, and began to search the bottom of the hollowed out swan. 

Clare turned at the sound of a giggle, and something shot out of the exit tunnel.  With a thud, Max’s mangled camera landed on the dock. 

“Max,” Clare nudged the destroyed piece of equipment. 

“Yeah?”  He turned towards her. 

“I found your camera.”  

Monday, May 26, 2014

Accidental Demon Slayers: Daughter of Darkness pt. 23

Clare had just started to convince herself that the whole mermaid thing was a part of the ride when the boat floated into the next cavern.  It had to be.  It seemed too staged, and if that thing had really meant to harm either of them, it would have.  Still, something in her gut told her that she was just kidding herself.  This presence, whatever it was, was playing with them. Like a cat playing with a mouse before it killed it. 

The next cavern was made to look like a swamp, the large, moss-covered trees sprouting out of the murky water.  Vines hung down from the ceiling and brushed their faces as they floated along.  The music switched again, a strumming banjo replacing the sound of the woman humming. 

“This was a bad idea.”  The camera was shaking in Max’s hand. 

“Listen, it’s just a ride.  That was probably a gag to help scare the girls so they would press a little closer to their dates.”  Clare leaned in, whispering in Max’s ear.  She needed to keep him calm. 

They were stuck in a small boat, surrounded by water filled with God knows what, and the last thing she needed was for him to freak out and try and jump over board.  Maybe she was right.  Maybe the ride was just a ride. 

She kept repeating that sentence over and over in her head as the boat neared the middle of the cavern.  There, set farther back, almost flush with what she was guessing was the back wall, was a small, log cabin, set high on stilts over the water.  A peer jutted out, and sitting on that peer was a small, furry creature.  The blue light made his matted fur look gray, and his big, bug eyes seemed to glisten in the faux moonlight.  He had on a small vest, and a banjo rested in his lap. 

The boat stopped.  Clare held her breath. 

“Well, well, well, what do we have hear!”  A voice came on over the speakers, the banjo music playing faintly behind it.  “Is that a pare of young lovers I see?  How sweet.” 

The voice had a thick, southern accent.  Clare couldn’t place it, and she figured it was most likely because the person doing it was some long forgotten Chicago voice actor doing his best Beverly Hillbillies impression. 

The recording continued.  “Well, I hope your love is pure and chaste, because we don’t take kindly to sinners round these parts.”  The creature on the peer began to strum his banjo.  “Oh no, we don’t.  We skin them alive, and feed them to the mermaids.” 

“This is sick.” Max was shaking his head, his camera pointed right at the creature on the peer. 

Clare had to agree.  This all just felt so wrong.  This whole ride had a weird, perverse streak to it.  She couldn’t recall if she had ever ridden the Tunnel of Love when she was a kid, but if she had, she didn’t remember any of this. 

Suddenly, two vines dropped from the ceiling, both on either side of the peer.  Near identical creatures to the one playing the banjo clung to the vines with one hand, and in their other hand was a long, curved blade. 

“So,” the voice continued, “are ya sinners?  And don’t forget, lyin’ is a sin.”  The voice began to cackle. 

The vines began to swing, and the blades those creatures were holding seemed to be getting awfully close to Clare and Max. 

“What the fuck is this?”  Max scooted against her, doing his best to put some distance between him, and the approaching blades. 
“Sinners!  Sinners!”  Little, squeaky voices began to play over the speakers, and the banjo music seemed to pick up pace.  “Skin the sinners!  Feed them to the mermaids!” 

There was a thunk as one of the vines smacked into the side of the boat.  The blade came inches from Max’s eye, missing only because he ducked at the last second.

The boat jerked forward, and the vines shot back up into the ceiling. 

“I don’t think I can take much more of this…” Max looked at Clare, his eyes wide. 

“I think we only have one more cavern to get through.  You’ll be fine.”  She put her arm around his shoulders.  “I’ll protect you.” 

She just wondered who the hell would protect her.  

Friday, May 23, 2014

Accidental Demon Slayers: Daughter of Darkness pt. 22

It had taken two of Max’s guys almost half an hour to get the ride up and running, but finally Clare found herself nestled into one of the swan boats, with a very jittery Max by her side.  She glanced over to the tech guy who had gotten behind the controls, and nodded for him to start he ride. 

With a jerk, the boat started to move forward.  She guessed that the boat was hooked to some kind of track under the water.  Slowly the chipped swan made it’s away towards the pitch black opening to the Tunnel of Love. 

Max held up his camera, and as soon as they passed through the worn, wooden heart, he turned on the night vision. 

Soft music echoed through the tight tunnel.  Clare couldn’t be sure, but it sounded like a version of “Moon River” that you would hear in supermarkets back when she was a kid.  The boat bumped against the walls of the tunnel, and for a while there was complete darkness. 

She glanced at the display on the camera.  There was nothing much to see.  Just the front of the boat, and the black water making gently waves as they glided along. 

“How many couples do you think did a little necking in this very swan?” Clare leaned against Max, and she felt him jump at her touch. 

“Who knows?”  Max’s voice was shaking.  “God knows I’m not really feeling ‘in the mood’ right now.” 

The boat continued down the tunnel for about a minute more before opening up into a small cavern.  Foam stalactites hung from the ceiling, while fiberglass stalagmites poked up through the water.  Mermaid figures sat perched on rocks placed in the murky water.  Everything was lit in pale pink and green lighting, making the whole scene look like something out of an old Italian horror movie. 

“Do you think those things ever looked normal?” Max aimed the camera at one of the mermaids. 

Clare squinted, trying to make out the details of the figure.  She sat on a rock, her tail dipped into the water.  Her back was arched, and her head hung back.  Her hair was a worn wig that draped down her back, and fluttered in the slight breeze that moved through the man made cavern.  She was shocked to see that her breasts were exposed, with little pink nipples painted on the glossy mounds. 

“I doubt it.”  Clare shook her head. 

She turned her attention to another mermaid, this one half in the water.  Her head was aimed towards the ceiling, and she was spitting a stream of water out of her mouth.  A third mermaid sat on a small island, farthest away from the boat.  She was resting on her belly, her tail flapping up and down.  Her torso was lifted just enough to expose her breasts.  The only thing keeping her from being completely exposed was the tangled wig that fell past her shoulders.  The whole thing seemed inappropriate to her.  The figures were made to look like something out of a pin up magazine, not like something you would see in a ride at a family friendly amusement park.

The boat stopped, and the music changed, switching to the sound of a woman’s voice, humming. 

Clare glanced around the scene again.  Something suddenly felt off.  She heard a splash, and her eyes quickly shot towards the water.  She couldn’t see anything, obviously. 

“What’s going on?”  Max didn’t even attempt to hide his fear. 

“I don’t know.  Just try and stay calm, okay?”  Clare scanned the scene again. 

She first looked to the mermaid on the small island, then to the one spitting water, and then to the one… 

The mermaid that had been sitting on the rock was gone. 

She jumped at the sound of water splashing.  She looked around, but she couldn’t see anything moving under the water.  The splashing continued, and she tried her best to pin point where the noise was coming from.  It was coming from… behind her. 

Clare froze. 

Slowly she turned her head. 

Looking at her perched on the side of the boat, was the mermaid from the rock.  Her face was glossy, wet.  Her hair was matted down, and damp, and this close Clare could see that chunks of her wig had fallen out.  Her eyes were locked directly on both passengers in the boat. 

Clare couldn’t help it.  She screamed.  Max screamed louder.

The boat jerked forward, and the figure of the mermaid vanished back into the water.  Just before they passed out of the cavern, Clare glanced back, and the mermaid had returned to her rock, the only sign that she had ever left being the sheen of water that glistened over her plaster body. 

Max was shaking.  “Was that part of the ride?” 

“I… I don’t know.”  Clare moved closer to Max.  She knew that she was stronger then him, but after that last little jump scare, it felt good to know that she wasn’t alone.  “Did you get it on camera?” 

“Yeah…” Max reached out with his free hand and gripped her knee. 

She braced herself.  She wasn’t sure if she was ready for the next cavern, but when she glanced into the viewfinder on Max’s camera she realized she didn’t have much of a choice.  The entrance to the next cavern was only inches in front of them.  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Doom!, or why no character should ever be considered "safe"

A friend of mine posted something on my Facebook wall that got me thinking.  It was a little poster that said "I ask myself 'What is the worst thing I can do to a character?' and then I do it."  I jokingly said that it was my motto, and then I realized something.  It really was.  I tend to terrorize my characters, and when I feel like it, I'll kill them off without warning.  I've held back while writing Accidental Demon Slayers, but am I hurting myself by doing this?  In the past, my stories would off major characters left and right.  In my mind, no character should ever be safe.

Now, obviously this is not a hard and fast rule.  It depends on the story you are trying to tell.  If I'm writing something that I want to be sweet and romantic I'm not going to just randomly drop a piano on the romantic interest just to shake things up... or maybe I would.  Hmm... Anyways, the point I'm trying to make is this, if you are writing a story where death is a regular feature, then you should never be afraid of killing off a major character.

A perfect example of shooting yourself in the foot by playing it safe is the Scream franchise.  The first two films took major risks in choosing which characters to bump off.  Randy's death scene in Scream 2 is a shocking and horrific moment.  Yes, fans reacted horribly to the scene.  They were horrified and saddened by a popular characters death.  Yet, the reacted.  That's the point.  His death scene created a very real, very emotional reaction in the viewers.  Instead of pushing forward, and throwing the rules to the wind, the creators of the series pulled back.  Fans freaked, and the creators got scared.  By Scream 4 a formula was so firmly in place that the series lacked suspense.  Of course the core three characters would make it out alive.  Sure, they would be worse for wear, but they would walk away, ready to star in the next chapter.  By not taking risks, and by making certain characters safe in a world where any character is supposed to be on the chopping block, the series becomes dull.  Why bother watching if you already know the outcome?

Series like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead understand the importance of taking risks when it comes to characters lives.  The best way to keep a viewer, or a reader, engaged is to keep them on the edge of their seat.  Sure, Rick may not be buying the farm any time soon, but the idea isn't really all that out there.  Andrea is a long running character in the comic book, but she didn't make it past season three on the TV show.

There is another reason I'm writing this post.  While working on Daughter of Darkness, I struggled with the idea of killing of a main character.  A big part of me really didn't want to, and I avoided it as long as I could, but as the story moved along, and that moment came closer and closer, I realized that I had to do what was best for the story, no matter how much it hurt.  The world of Accidental Demon Slayers is one where characters are killed, usually in brutal fashion, on a regular basis, and by saying that this group of characters is exempt from that rule effectively makes the character work outside of the rules of the story.  I was trying to force the story to go one way, while the story itself was going in the opposite direction.  In the end I realized that the character in question really was there for this moment.  They had no real future in the story, and most likely would have just faded into the background.  By writing their death scene I gave the character a purpose.

There is a reverse to this as well.  Sometimes I can get a little "kill" happy.  Anyone who has read any of my horror scripts can attest to this.  I would kill characters off just for the hell of it.  There was no real reason behind it, and it hardly ever served the story.  Actually, it would end up hurting the story.  You can't really force shock.  You can sure as hell try, but if it doesn't have a purpose you can end up forcing your story right into a corner, and find yourself having to start over because you just removed a key part of your story that was required for everything to come together later on.  I've done this more times then I can count.

Anyone who writes can tell you that a story tends to take on a life of it's own, and when you fight against it, try to force it's direction no matter how clear it is that your path is the wrong path, the story will fall apart.  Let the story develop and, in a way, tell itself.  Yes, these scenes are there to create a reaction in the reader, but more importantly they should be there because the story requires it.  Maybe killing off a main character will shift the stories perspective to someone else.  Maybe it's that catalyst that pushes the other characters to act.  Maybe it's that moment that forces the other characters to examine their selves, and their journey, and push the story into a whole different direction.  You cannot be afraid to take those risks.

Going back to my earlier post about my time in the Columbia Fiction Writing Department, one of the school mantras was "don't censor yourself."  Most of the students (myself included) took this as an order to be tasteless and out there and shocking.  The more I think of it, the more I realize that I had misinterpreted the true intention of that mantra. The word censor instantly makes one think of graphic, or inflammatory content.  The true meaning of it was to not be afraid to take risks.  Don't hold back out of fear of what others might think, but instead go forward and trust that they will understand.  They may not always like it, but if it truly fits with the story, then they will accept it.

As I learn to apply that rule to my own writing I have learned to take joy in hearing people tell me they were upset by a characters death.  That tells me two things. First is that the character is effective enough that their demise has an effect on the reader, and second is that I am keeping the reader engaged by going against their expectations while still developing the story.  

So, the lesson here is to take risks.  Playing it safe with your story, and with your characters will only rob your story of potential impact.  Taking a risk does not mean being shocking and vulgar for the sake of being shocking and vulgar, but instead with allowing yourself to let the story grow on it's own, and naturally form into what it needs to be, not what you initially planned it to be.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Why I Do What I Do

Obviously, when I started this blog, it was meant to be something more personal.  This was started out of the frustration of having to restart my life as I approach 30.  I'm still in the process of doing that, but I have to admit, I'm feeling a whole lot more comfortable with my life then I did when Square Zero began.

Eventually Accidental Demon Slayers, and the serials, took over after a while.  There was a reason for this, though.

The reason is... I love to write.  I don't mean I enjoy it.  I mean, I LOVE it.  I absolutely love writing.  It has been one of those things in my life that has always brought me joy.  Well, almost always...

I've been writing stories since I was a little kid.  Being able to disappear into a world of monsters and mysteries was my greatest escape.  Writing helped me explore more mature ideas, like dealing with death, as well as ideas on sexuality.  Writing gave me a freedom growing up that nothing else could.  If I wasn't writing stories, I was dreaming them up.  I still do that.  90% of my day is me thinking about the next story I'm going to write, or developing an idea that I've had stewing around in my brain for years.

The only time I ever felt that joy diminished was when I was in college.

I went to Columbia College Chicago for a degree in Fiction Writing.  You would think that spending every day thinking about writing, talking about writing and actually writing would be my dream.  I thought it would be.  Instead I left that school never wanting to write again.

If you have read any of my stories EVER, then you know I love writing genre fiction.  I always have, and I'm guessing I always will.  My stories tend to include massive amounts of monsters, blood, guts, sex and swearing.  I enjoy writing stuff that is over the top.  While I respect authors who want to create great works of literature that reflect the human condition, and explore the depths of the human psyche, I would prefer to write about sex crazed zombies invading a home for nuns who moonlight as strippers.  The problem is, the program I was in looked down on genre fiction.  It wasn't all the teachers, mind you, but a good chunk of them.

There was one teacher in particular who not just looked down on genre fiction, but, at least in my eyes, seemed to actively hate it.  Of course, I would have this teacher (who shall remain nameless), for not one, but three classes through out my time at Columbia.

Now, before we get into how this teacher made me never want to write again, I need to kind of explain the atmosphere in a college writing program.  In the Columbia program there were a few types of writers.

First, you had your "edgy" writers, who wrote what I liked to call the "young drug addicts in love" stories.  These were the stories where everyone was peachy keen till someone shot up, vomited and then spent the next two chapters detoxing while their significant other sat by their side, equally sweaty, gross and most likely reading their lover's upheave like tea leaves into their destined, tragic future.  An off shoot of these stories was the "quirky serial killers/sadists".  While the story itself may be labeled as a thriller or horror story, the general tone was more like a Wes Anderson take on Silence of the Lambs by way of Brett Easton Ellis.  While they played with the idea of genre, their focus was squarely in the more literary.  With this group you were looking at your hipsters and faux- Sex Pistols fans who bathed rarely, and always looked like they had just rolled in from a three day bender of speed balls and cheap whisky.  Required reading for them was most likely Requiem for a Dream and American Psycho.

The close cousin of the "edgy" writer is the "social ills".  These were the people who were using their fiction to bring down the man, man.  It was storytelling with a heavy dose of jumbled liberal arts humanities thrown in.  These people wanted to start a revolution with their stories, or at least appear that way so they could pick up chicks (or dudes).  They had a point to make, and eventually they would make it... if you could pick it out of the jumbled mess of their stories.  They wanted to create pieces that would freak people out and wake people up.  Their stories usually involved a lot of trippy visuals, subtext made text, cryptic messages and massive amounts of creepy sex, and symbolic violence.  These were the people who worshiped at the altar of Hunter S. Thompson, William S. Burroughs and Hubert Selby Jr. (who also wrote Requiem for a Dream).  Their stories were usually nihilistic and nasty, because life was nihilistic and nasty.  They had feelings, too.  Usually those feelings came out as anger, despair and disgust. Politically they went both ways, though.  So, at least they were a diverse bunch.

Then you had your "sensory" writers.  These were the writers who not only wanted you to envision the world they were creating, but also taste it, smell it and live it. They wanted you to feel what they felt when they wrote, cuz damn it, they have feelings, and they want to share those feelings with the world.  Unlike the "social ills", the "sensory" writer tends to express more romanticized versions of feelings.  Sure, they can feel angry, but they are only angry because the person they love with all their heart just can't seem to catch a break.  These stories were squarely placed in reality, with very few breaks into any kind of surrealism, unless someone dropped acid during a 70's flashback.  Then you could expect four pages talking about the colors they saw, and how, for the first time they truly felt connected to every human on earth.  These stories aimed to bring up some Stand By Me style nostalgia, with imagery that usually involved wind rustling through tall grass, and a storyline that focused on a sick parent/sibling/friend/pet, or that last summer before the main character started high school/college/ their adult life, and feelings.  Lots of feelings. They would use sweeping, beautiful language... that would drag the pace of their story to a snails crawl (The teacher, whose name is being withheld to protect the snobby, was very guilty of this.  Sitting through a reading of one of her works in progress was like taking a sleeping pill.)  An offshoot of this was the urban "sensory" writer. Take that wind rustling through the grass and replace it with an open fire hydrant on a hot summers day, and you pretty much get the idea.  The not so fictional "memoir-light" novelists fall into this group, too. (While the stories they write are fiction, the basis is always connected to a singular event that shaped the author's adolescence.)  These were the quasi-hippies, the future yuppies and the more straight laced kids.  For them, it was all about creating a realistic, emotional experience while hopefully landing in Oprah's book club. These are the "next great American novel" types.

(Obviously these descriptions are very basic, and loaded with snark.  What?  Me, bitter?  Never!)

Finally, you had the genre writers.

Now, what do I mean when I say genre writer.  A genre writer is someone who focuses a specific audience type.  They tend to be the kind of books you see in mass market paperbacks at the end of check out lines, or at the airport.  They can be highly regarded literature (think Dracula or Frankenstein) or fun beach reads (James Patterson and Dean Koontz).  The main thing is they are trying to tell a specific TYPE of story, be it sci-fi, horror, fantasy, romance, erotica, suspense, mystery, thriller, etc. In the world of the Fiction Writing department, these were the nerds.  While everyone else was reading Toni Morrison and Tom Wolfe, these kids were reading Bentley Little and Nora Roberts (bet you never thought you would see those two names in the same sentence).  Genre, at least in the world of Columbia, was considered low end, while Literary works were considered high end.

Anywho!  I'm getting off track.

So, while I was in college (and now...) I loved writing horror.  I didn't write horror to be ironic.  I wrote horror to be horrifying and gross and nasty and fun.  I grew up loving ghost stories, slasher movies and comic books like Tales from the Crypt and Dead World.  I didn't want to write about the strength of the human spirit, I wanted to write about evil spirits testing the strength of co-eds who decided to spend the night in a haunted dorm, even though the school headmistress told them it was dangerous, and guess what, she was right!  I wanted to write trash. Not ironic trash, but full on John Waters by way of Roger Corman level trash.

So, I wrote trash.

I didn't aim to be the next, great American author.  I wanted to be the type of author who wrote paperbacks.  The kind that don't stay in print long, and end up doing the rounds in used bookstores, getting read over summers, or late at night.  The kinds of books with tawdry, tattered covers that showed the years of wear on them with pride.  I didn't want to write a book that would be studied in classes around the world.  I wanted to write the kind of books that people hid under their mattresses, or in the sock drawer because they didn't want their friends to know they liked "that kind"of book.  I wanted to write the kinds of books that I loved when I was a kid, like Midsummer by Matthew Costello, Suffer the Children by John Saul or The Cold One by Christopher Pike (all three are amazing books, by the way).  I wanted to create something that would give people that same, forbidden thrill that my friends and I felt when we would sneak volumes of Hot Blood out in chapel.  (Worship songs and erotic horror are odd mixes).

I mean, I wanted it to be well written trash, but I wanted to write what I wanted to write, and what I expected from my teachers was someone to help me build the tools to write the best trash possible.

What I got was a whole lot of side eye and shade.  I felt like my writing was constantly being shuffled to the side or dismissed because it wasn't "literary".  Sure, I had zombies, but they needed to be zombies with subtext.  What did their hunger for brains say about the human condition and our consumer society?  What did that topless, vampire cheerleader mean?  What did her blood covered, heaving bosoms reveal about the heteronormative patriarchy that is our society?

I honestly felt like only two or three teachers at Columbia ever really got me.  They were the ones who understood what I liked to write, the types of stories I wanted to tell, and they tried to guide me in the right direction in telling them.  (When I say I want to write trash, that doesn't mean I want to write shit.  I still want to create interesting characters and a fully fleshed out story.  I still want to create something that is well paced and enjoyable.)  Three out of how many teachers, and they weren't even teaching any of my core classes.

I was doomed in that program, and the one teacher, the one who really made me never want to write another sentence again, was not only running three of my classes, she was co-head of the Fiction Writing department, and her taste in writing was reflected in the majority of the classes available, and the instructors hired.  As the song goes, I was totally fucked.

When I got out of college, I was a wreck.  There were a billion and one reasons why, but part of it was because I really didn't feel like there was any reason to be bothering with this crap anymore.  It all felt so pointless.

I didn't write again for a couple years once I graduated.  I tried, but I could never really bring myself to get a story going.  What was the point?  I had already spent four and a half years of my life pretty much being told that my writing just wasn't worth it.  It was just silly stories.  I wasn't saying anything profound, so what was the point?

It took me two years before I finally said fuck it, fuck them, and fuck the idea of being a serious writer. I enjoyed writing when I was a kid because I wasn't writing for anyone else.  When I was at Columbia my writing suffered because I wasn't writing for myself.  I was writing for my teachers, and my peers.  I was writing stuff to make them respect me.  I tried to change my style to fit their mold so that I could get that same recognition I saw my peers getting.  In reality, I ended up writing total and complete shit. It wasn't my story anymore.  I wasn't asking myself what I wanted to write, I was asking myself what I thought they wanted to read, and it backfired horribly.  As much as I want to blame my teachers, and the program for my two year, self imposed exile from writing, it wasn't entirely their fault.  I lost sight of what writing had really meant to me.

As a kid I was writing the stories that I wanted to tell, and the fact that my friends got a kick out of them was just icing.  It took me two years, and finding a folder filled with my old "Claw" stories, for me to finally start writing for myself again.  That's why I wrote Fashion Victims and Spirit Lake all those years ago, and that's why I write the Accidental Demon Slayers stories now.  While I appreciate the people who come here and enjoy my stories, and I am grateful that people will even give my writing a chance.  I am far from great, and I know I will never be the next Stephen King or Bentley Little, but what does it matter?  Telling stories makes me happy, and I write to enjoy myself, to improve and to grow.  I write to let my imagination run wild.

I write because I love it.