My Why

About a month ago, this was me:

It wasn’t District 12 Reaping but a zoom call. WANTED: volunteers to help with an HWA Ohio Chapter podcast that would focus on the craft and process of horror writing. Although I have thoroughly embraced the introvert I am and the comfort zone of no-human-contact, the teacher and learner in me was bouncing around, raising her hand and volunteering.

In the first episode of Exhuming the Bones we’re going to talk about how we think about and write horror. I’ve been drawn to the macabre since I was less than two digits old. A neighbor’s cat had died, you see, and it had a little twig cross over the place of internment. Bad idea. I wanted to know: what did a cat look like after it had spent some time being dead. I got a hold of a shovel, and…well… my first novel includes a scene of what happened.

A farmhouse with dilapidated outbuildings and rusted out tractor parts was across the street from our trailer court. The cat was buried in the margin of the soybean field nearby. When I unearthed a black plastic bag, a large, slavering farm dog came a callin’, drawn by the smell.

Need I say more?

Not only was this my first brush with the dead, but it was also my first #adulting experience: things had gotten waaaaay out of hand. Was that–those–pieces of cat getting put back just the way I’d found them? No. My first horror story was an apology letter to God. You may have noticed my blog banner. It is a quote from Japanese movie director, Akira Kurosava: The role of the artist is to not look away. Since my cat moment, I’ve always had a sense that I should look, and that afterward, I should tell. The artistry is harder to come by. They say it takes 10,000 hours. I don’t know what my number is.

Have I forgiven myself for the injury done to the cat and his owner? Mostly. I was just a kid. An open-minded educator might see it as the scientific method. Observation. Still, I’m a little nervous to fess up to it verbally, without my trusty delete button.

Writing horror is a way to practice facing my fears. So is starting a podcast, or any new creative endeavor. The scenes I conjure usually come straight from my favorite cognitive distortion, catastrophizing (thank you, therapist). But it’s not all bad. The school shooting in Uvalde is on everyone’s mind. Our hearts ache. We fear for our children. The world feels malevolent in the face of such senseless evil. Do you know how some schools train their students to face the horrific scenario of an active shooter: ALICE training. In ALICE training, you decide ahead of time how you’re going to respond. You go there mentally and run through it like a dress rehearsal. (You can see why not ALL schools incorporate ALICE training– a little scary for the wee, sensitive ones.) Horror writing is ALICE training with zombies, monsters, or whatever fearful thing I’m working with at the moment.

How I write horror (and everything) is based on the concept of the highest quality work is produced by embracing quantity, not perfection. Once I bought into the idea of quantity over perfection, I decided to launch MTO Horror, which is my way of giving back to my readers. But it also forces me into quantity. (I have a weekly deadline.) See the full story on quantity over perfection here. If you’ve been on the fence about participating in MTO Horror, jump in and give me a fact. I’ll give you a fright.

I’ve got my fourth novel going (35K words so far), and I churn out a short story here and there, plus my weekly MTO Horror. My why of producing a podcast is that it challenges me, teaches me, and scares the hell out of me. I volunteer!

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