Tag Archives: creative writing

The Cabin

My truck rattled along the gravel road, taking me further and further from civilization. The old logging trail ran alongside a creek bed, long since dry thanks to the lack of rain this summer. Even with our drought the trees still held their vivid green canopies. The forest ceiling blocked out the sun with only the occasional beam of light piercing through the thick growth.

The cabin was the last place I wanted to go in this heat. No air conditioning would be killer this time of year. The humidity alone was nearly unbearable, but the gentle breeze blowing through my truck window kept me cool. It was almost pleasant, but I knew it wouldn’t last.

I approached the final stretch and began to ascend. The hill the cabin was situated on would have offered a great view had the forest not been so thick. The cabin was old. It had been in my family longer than I knew. It was like a relative that you were “encouraged” to visit every so often. My dad had requested I go out and check on the place since he hadn’t been able to get out here this year. Ever since the surgery, he hadn’t been moving as well. I know he loves the place, so I couldn’t say no. Hopefully he could make it out for deer season, but it wasn’t looking likely.

The road broke through the trees into the small clearing at the front of the cabin. The old structure looked more worn down than I remembered. The paint weathered, the wood beaten and rough. It was clinging to life, the only sign of humanity within miles of nature’s domain.

I stopped the truck and hopped out, instantly feeling the sweat beading down my face. I grabbed my bag from the bed of the truck and went to the small outhouse that was nestled beside the old building. Hidden inside was the key ring that opened the front door. It was tucked away exactly where it was supposed to be, a faint layer of dust covering the shiny keys.

Opening the door, I could feel the oppressive heat blast like a wave across the threshold of the cabin. The air was stale and choked with dust. I entered and dropped my bag on the old pull-out sofa that would be my bed for the night. Bugs pinged off the torn screens as I opened the windows.

What looked like movement caught my eye as I glanced out into the forest. I squinted, not making anything out in the brush. Probably a deer or a coyote. They practically infested these parts.

Grabbing the axe from the utility closet, I went out to chop some wood. It would take a fair amount to get me through the night if I wanted to be spared from total darkness. My hands began to callous over as I worked on a fallen tree, chopping up decent size logs before I could split them. It took me three trips, but I was able to get all of the wood back to the porch.

On my final trip, I returned to find the door swinging lazily in the breeze. I could have sworn that it was closed the last trip I made. I cautiously opened the door, hoping not to find a coyote or some other wild animal had somehow made its way inside.

No one was there.

I stepped inside and froze.

All of my belongings were neatly laid out on the sofa. It was like someone had gone through my bag, inventorying everything I was carrying.

My eyes took in all of my things. Everything was there, except my truck keys.

I grabbed the axe from the porch and hurriedly put the wood inside the building. Closing all the windows, I locked the front door and frantically pulled my cell phone from my pocket, dropping it to the wooden floor in the process.

I dialed my dad’s number and he answered on the third ring. I choked out what happened as I paced along the inside of the cabin.

Expecting him to try and calm me down, I was surprised by what he told me. After I finished telling him my story, he was quiet for a moment.

“Stay inside, lock the door, and don’t leave for anything. I’ll pick up the extra set of your keys from your house and meet you at the cabin in the morning. No matter what you hear or see, don’t leave that building until I get there in the morning.”

I thought he would tell me that it was probably just a hiker playing a trick or something like that, but upon hearing his warning I knew that he was deathly serious.

Nightfall approached slowly and I spent my time nervously looking from window to window. Even before the sun dipped below the horizon, I built a fire in the fireplace. The heat was overwhelming, but the thought of waiting until dark to build the fire was out of the question.

I huddled next to the sofa, axe in hand as I awaited the sun. I must have dozed off around 1am because when the banging on the door woke me up the fire was dying.

Grasping the axe tightly, I made my way to the door. With each step I took the banging became louder. It was still pitch black outside the windows as I tried in vain to see what might be waiting beyond the doorway.

“Who is it?” I asked timidly.

The banging stopped.

I choked up on the axe and steeled myself. “Who is it, damnit?”

The sound of fingernails tracing over the wood door was the only reply.

I backed away from the door, nearly tripping over the sofa in the process. Realizing how dark it was getting, I hurriedly threw wood on the fire, not taking my eyes off the front door and windows the entire time. The fire flared to life and I felt exposed. Anyone outside would be easily able to see me.

Huddling next to the sofa, I waited until the first rays of sun burst through the windows. I burned through all of my supply of wood, but I never let the fire die.

I was greeted by the sound of tires on gravel, and I looked out the window to see my dad pulling up to the front of the cabin, parking next to my truck. He slowly got out of the car while favoring his injured leg. He had a shotgun in hand as he waved at me.

Opening the door, I rushed out and nearly tackled him, I was so excited to see him.

“Come on boy, let’s get out of here,” he said anxiously, eyes scanning the tree line. I jogged back inside and grabbed my bag, carrying the axe with me the entire time. As I locked the cabin door, I saw something that made my skin crawl. All around the cabin, near the windows, the grass had been disturbed. I slowly walked around the cabin and confirmed it. Something had been watching me all night, slowly circling the cabin.

With my replacement keys in hand, I followed my dad’s SUV out of the small clearing and back towards the city. It wasn’t until we got back to his place that we were able to speak.

I told him what happened during the night, and he listened intently. After I finished, he said that we wouldn’t be going back there anymore.

“When I was a child, I went up to the cabin with your granddad. In the middle of the night, someone knocked on the door. When I went to open it, my father grabbed my arm and hushed me when I tried to speak. We waited until the knocking stopped, and he kept watch with his hunting rifle. The next day I asked him what was out there, and he wouldn’t say. His eyes got very distant and he said it was something that didn’t like us being on its land. He never talked about it again.”

Ever since that night, I’ve stayed out of the woods. I don’t think it has done any good. The other day I was tidying up my yard after a large storm came through when I found them.

Footprints in the mud, outside all of my windows.

Titan

I gasp for air in the drain pipe as my shoulder pounds in pain. My  vision is swimming. Slowly my eyes adjust to the darkness and my torn up palms trace their way along the bottom of the tunnel. Scrabbling deeper into the dark, I curl into a ball every time I hear that damn sound.

I had been walking home from my office when I heard it the first time. My boss, Parker, made me stay late again and I was starting to curse myself for deciding to jog to work this morning instead of driving. Taylor was trying to get me into shape for our upcoming vacation and I was doing a shit poor job of actually listening to her. I know she doesn’t want to be the woman hanging out on the beach with the husband equivalent of a beached whale, but getting myself to be motivated was harder and harder to achieve.

Walking alone down the darkened backstreets didn’t bother me. I preferred it to the howling masses that seemed to live on Main Street at this time of night, swarming between the bars and restaurants that dotted the road in the middle of town.

Alone with my thoughts and the quiet music seeping through my headphones, I made my way down the darkened alleys. I figured I was alone until I turned the corner.

“I don’t want to hurt you, man, but I will. Give me your wallet and your phone and don’t try any shit.”

The man, really a boy now that I think of it, couldn’t have been older than 17 or 18. Time stopped and I noticed everything. His eyes were ringed and bagged, fingernails ragged and chewed. He looked paler than I was, and the unmistakable tremors and sweating indicated some kind of drug use.

It’s easy to feel detached now, but then all I found myself focusing on was the boxy shape of a Glock 9mm handgun pointed directly at my chest. Adrenaline kicked in and before I knew it I was holding my phone and wallet above my head, as though they were an offering to the gods.

The kid was shaking the gun at me and yelling, but by this point I had no idea what he was saying. The sounds of the world were being droned out by the noise of blood pumping in my ears. He waved the gun, and I realized he wanted me to drop the stuff on the floor.

Practically throwing my phone and wallet, I dumped them on the floor and took a few steps back. The thief scooped them up and with that he was gone. The sounds of the world slowly faded back into perception, and I was left standing in the dark alley with nothing left but the encroaching feeling of nausea.

Then I heard the scream. The scream was panicked and primal. At first I thought it was an animal like a rabbit or something, but my brain connected the dots when I heard the clattering from the Glock hitting the asphalt.

I worked up my courage and approached the brick corner at the end of the alley. Peering around the edge, I could see the legs of the thief dangling from the rooftop as he was slowly being pulled over the ledge.

The smell of copper and ozone filled my nostrils and the only thing I could hear was a sickly popping noise. Every morning when we wake up, Taylor likes to pop her back. I hate that noise. It bothers me to my core and even though I ask her to not do it, she can’t help herself. She just grins at me and struggles to crack her back multiple times in a row. This was like that, but left me feeling like I was going to throw up.

Looking above me is when I first saw it. It’s head was shaped like an over-sized pumpkin. It’s empty, raw eye sockets stared back at me. Below it sat a gaping hole where a mouth should be.

I turned and ran. My feet pounding against the pavement as whatever it was began trailing me across the rooftops. As I passed alleyways and empty streets I realize that whatever it was, it was clearing the 20 foot gaps between the buildings as easy as you or I stepping over a crack in the pavement.

Whatever the thing is, it’s big. I can hear its joints pop as it lopes across the buildings next to me. I can hear a low dry croaking sound each time it lands after a jump.

I turn towards the river and hope to lose it in the forest lying along the shore when I make my mistake. I trip, whether it’s over a rock or hole in the ground, it ends with only one thing. I tumble down the embankment and slam my shoulder into the concrete drainage pipe.

Now, climbing through the pipe I realize that I can hide out here until morning. Then my heart sinks. I come to a locked security grate. I’m barely twenty feet into the pipe when I hear the sickening, cracking of joints and see a filthy and white bony hand work its way towards me. As I press my back against the grate, the thing leans further into the tunnel, plunging me into complete darkness.

Storytelling and RPGs

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m a huge nerd. I absolutely love role playing games; both running them and playing in them.  I run into one problem though: I get sidetracked by other games.

The games I play in I have a blast with, so that’s not the problem. It’s when I run games that I get distracted. Lately I’ve been running Traveller. Traveller is a space opera, in which players generally find themselves moving across a subsector of space, scraping by and high-tailing it from one system to the next. In a word, it’s basically Firefly the RPG, more so than the original Firefly RPG.

Continue reading Storytelling and RPGs

On failure

I’ve been recently told that I need to slow down on my projects or I’ll burn myself out. This is a valid concern (given my New Years pushups and running resolutions) however with writing and my side projects, I feel like slowing down will burn myself out. I am enjoying creating content for others to read. I can only hope it’s entertaining, but the goal here is to create something worthy of just two minutes of someone’s time. Just a year ago around this time I heavily started writing. I’ve always written, but I wouldn’t have called myself a writer until then.

Back then, I was terrified of criticism. I would worry about each piece I was thinking of showing to people, and then show them only to select groups from where I knew I would get positive feedback. I would never dare put my writing up online for fear that someone wouldn’t like it. Just getting one negative review would be enough to throw me into a shame spiral. But you know what? Now I don’t really care about that.

I just started on YouTube working on my podcast. It has been a long time in the making, and my friend Graham is lending his amazing sound mastering experience to help supplement my writing. We’ve gotten pretty positive responses, but also something that I’m not used to. Now, for the first time I’ve received visibly negative feedback.

I got my first dislike, my friends.

What would originally have destroyed me has actually inspired me. I try and think of what I can do differently for the next video instead of beating myself up about it. When I look at my project’s failings, it’s not out of self-pity, but to continue to improve and thrive.

A few posts ago I mentioned that I had scrapped the work on my novel. People I know, to put it simply, politely freaked out. They worried about all the time I put in to the current drafts. What they didn’t realize was that I was already on my third attempt at the same story that just wasn’t working. I had invested all told about 40,000 words on writing that I was trying to force to work. Now I don’t believe that all writing is inspiration and magically flows through you or some such. Writing is work, in some cases harder than other things. But when you can’t shake an idea and keep it as a sacred cow, you can’t improve on it.

So, I scrapped it. There are still copies of it on my hard drive so I can’t say I dramatically burned the thing to the ground, but I no longer consult them. I started writing fresh and shed the plot elements I was so concerned were needed, and ended up having my characters take me to where I needed them to be. Yes, writing is work, but sometimes there are those moments when the words talk back to you. You just put them to paper and they glow. Other times you stare out the windows wracking your brain for the next big step.

The dislike on my video was more puzzling than disheartening, but I get it. A week ago I sent Graham a new cut of recordings I did for the next episode of the podcast. I waited for a response because I wanted to get in to it, and he replied that I had made my voice so gravelly and stuttered that I sounded like a barely literate Batman. I thought I had sounded creepy, he thought that me being ‘creepy’ sounded like I didn’t know how to pronounce the word ‘exercises.’ He was brutally honest about it, and I loved it. I learned more about recording in that 5 minute conversation than spending time trying to figure out what I think people would like. It’s been one of the most helpful criticisms I’ve gotten in my career.

Like any other blooming YouTube sensation, I tend to exaggerate but I also watch my click-through-rate and advertising statistics. They make sense to me now. They ebb and flow just like everything else and the goal to getting views isn’t just good marketing, but also providing great content. I had run ad campaigns that shot up my views, but did little to keep people except for a dedicated core of viewers and readers around. I was getting my 15 minutes without any of the benefits.

Moving forward, I’m working on making myself better in all ways. I’ve started doing my pushups again, and now I’m learning how to use video editing software in addition to the sound aspect of the project. Graham has his own projects to worry about, so the more I can help him with the mundane aspects of the editing the better. But I need to start considering my technical skills in addition to my creative ones. Graham is awesome with sound because not only is he a skilled musician, but he’s also passionate about all aspects of recording music. Thanks to this podcast, he’s transitioning into Foley work as well. It is as new a field to him as recording and video making is to me.

That’s what I need to learn how to do. Not just focus on the technical or creative aspect, but both. They can live together in harmony and don’t need to be mutually exclusive. I can watch CTR’s and also not compromise myself as an artist or whatever pretentious spin you want to put on it. People will like things, people will hate things, but if you want to be successful you need to keep putting out work, and scrap your sacred cows when they aren’t working for you.

I was so afraid of failure with the podcast initially that we had the episode recorded for months before it actually hit the internet. It was my first foray into the audio arena of the internet, and while it isn’t perfect, it was a start. Scrapping my novel and starting over has been the best decision I’ve made yet, as I’ve written more in two days based around the same general elements than I have in the last month on this project. It all comes down to not being afraid to admit failure, but not letting that failure stop you or slow you down. That’s how we learn and that’s how we prosper. If I hadn’t gotten rid of my flawed progress on my story, I would be rewriting the same 40,000 words. Just spinning my wheels unhappy with everything, but since I had already gotten that far, there was nothing I was able to do.

Getting that far is only part of the trip, the other is making sure the journey is worth it. If Wally World is closed, savor the journey, but also turn the damn car around and go to Disneyland.

Creative writing: He said she said

Wanted to take a wee break from my horror writing and focus on practicing something I desperately need to practice – realistic  emotional tension. It’s rough around the edges, but I’ve never really written this much back-and-forth before. Hope you guys enjoy my little experiment.


“What does this mean for us then?” The question hung over the table as she waited for the answer. The diner continued as though nothing life-changing was happening. It didn’t matter, each table had a story, and this table’s story wouldn’t impact anything for the rest of the patrons anyways. The diner was busy, the diner didn’t care.

Continue reading Creative writing: He said she said

Write or Die

Oh I had too much fun with this site. Write or Die is a website and writing program that force you to write. Just keeps you on task to make sure you hit out those 500 words in 15 minutes or whatever other goal you set for yourself. The program is $20 to buy, and can be tried on their site with limited settings for free.

Write or Die forces you to keep pace with your chosen WPM by flashing color whenever you slow down too much, and playing startling sounds once you’ve breached the barrier. It forced me to just write. I had to free form as quickly as possible, and it did actually get my heart rate up. I’m not sure if I’ll buy the software or not yet, but I recommend everyone give at least the trial a try (no download, straight through your browser.) Unfortunately I lost my first attempt, but it was amazing how much it kept me on task. Give it a shot and let me know what you think! I’ll try and write another entry on a stricter time frame and see how the results work.

Creative Writing

Just a bit of free form writing I started this morning. Nothing from my life except the horror. Dragonfly guy popped in my head when I woke up and I loved him too much. Bit of a break from horror.


The cold metal chair bites into my back as I listen to the latest speaker. I shouldn’t be slouching, but I feel like a kid stuck in church. The group had been billed as a fiction writing group, but if you add a podium, we could be an AA meeting. Hell, add some robes and we’re a cult.

The empty school gymnasium echoes as the poetry guy talks again. He just simply showed up and started reciting poems. Jasper, the guy that was running the group, tried to explain that this was for fiction writer’s and not a poetry jam, but the guy didn’t get it. We just kind of let him do his thing. It would be cool if his poetry didn’t suck so bad.

The overhead lights are shut off and we’re illuminated by a set of hastily placed work lamps. The janitor apologized and said the overhead’s were on a timer. I think he’s full of it though, and just wants us to leave.

Ok, poetry guy finished his introduction. My guess is the poem will be about his mother.

“My poem is entitled, ‘My Mother, Dragonfly.’” He beams.

I look around, some people have looks of pity for the guy, some are leaning heavily into their hands trying to stay awake. We just came off a long lecture about ‘showing, and not telling’ from Jasper. He told us all the ways we could show things.

“Mother dragonfly, your legs are not strong enough to walk, but you can fly,” poetry guy recites from a pristine piece of paper. It had been folded but the lines are so crisp that you can tell he had spent more than a minute folding it.

All the poems are like this. Last week was ‘Soaring mother eagle,’ and then before that ‘Proud mother lion.’ We all felt bad for the guy, clearly he had just lost his mom and was trying to express himself in the only way he knew how. I mean, even if it was just through rhyming animal facts he was still expressing himself.

Then his completely healthy mother picked him up from the meeting last week and now it’s gotten a bit weird.

I try to make eye contact with the cute girl across the way that writes about elves and dwarves and stuff. She’s beautiful in that ‘pre-taking off glasses’ moment in a high school movie kind of way. I never got that, half the time the girls were better looking with the glasses and messy hair. More unique.

Anyways, I tried talking to her last week, but found out quickly that she wasn’t into any universe but the one she made up. I made small talk while she explained the intricacies of her magic system. When I tried to explain my basics for what I feel makes great horror, she kept steering it back to the scary creatures occupying her world. I listened and smiled but it hurt, weren’t we here to share ideas? Also it hurt that she didn’t care a lick about my writing but the ideas thing is probably more important.

Applause struggles for life as the Dragonfly guy sits back down.

The next woman called up is in her forties and was just laid off. She told us this last week and I went home and teared up about it for a bit. She was good. I mean best seller good, but she couldn’t finish her manuscript for the life of her. Just kept re-editing and re-reading us the same passages. I wanted to tell her to submit it. It was about her life experiences as a single mother of two, having come from a nuclear family. It was touching, and I hadn’t worked up the nerve to ask for a manuscript but I think I will someday. I want to tell her to submit it to some literary agents, but I don’t.

I get up and read next. It’s more Gothic horror, and I’m starting to run out of ways to say ‘incomprehensible’ and ‘mind-shattering.’ The more I write, them more I lose the horror. I can’t put together a novel length story to save my life. I don’t write blood and guts, and I have no idea how to keep the story going past 1000 words. I went to a literary agent once, but they told me no one cared about a short story collection unless you’re established.

With that the meeting concludes. Jasper says he’ll see us next week because writing’s cheaper than therapy and we laugh. It’s a bittersweet laugh because I know half of us are in therapy. Hell, that’s probably why we’re writers.

I get up to go ask the single mother for her manuscript but stop myself. It feels wrong, it just feels so intimate to ask for something like that. I don’t want to pressure her into doing something with her work she doesn’t want to do yet. I walk away and catch up with the elves girl.

I ask her out on a date and she says yes. As we walk through the empty school halls and into the brisk winter night, she regaled me with the royal history of the Elven people of Aeri.