Let's recap. By the time I graduated high school, I had written about two dozen short stories (and published two in a literary magazine). They were influenced mostly by Stephen King. We corresponded for about two years, and he gave me invaluable writing advice. His best counsel being not to be afraid to cut what I thought was my strongest work at the time I wrote it. I still follow that guidance in everything I create, including theatre. I also studied Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft. I enjoyed The Lord of the Rings and loved playing D&D. Two major life events shaped my writing: when my mom lost her baby girl and when the grandfather I was named after passed away.
I attended college at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. While there, I took a handful of creative writing courses and wrote maybe fifteen short stories, a couple of novellas, and a play. I dabbled in poetry, but the only thing of significance was the T.S. Eliot inspired "Her Lips Suck Forth My Soul." The title was a line borrowed from Marlowe. My favorite professor still teaches at NAU, and I plan to send him a copy of my novel as soon as it's printed with a little note that says, "This wouldn't have happened without you." He described my writing as "Literary Horror" and told me that he thought I could re-shape the entire field in the post-Stephen King era. He also taught me that plot is as simple as two dogs fighting over a bone, but who are those dogs? why do they want that bone? and what are they willing to risk to get it? are really what matter (sounds like acting advice - he would've made a great director!). He was one of many teachers who taught me never to accept the status quo and always to pursue my dreams.
I published "Sinned We All" in a literary magazine at that time. The story is about a wicked prison warden and how he's more evil than the criminal he punishes. When I first submitted the story, the editors wanted to pitch it as a science fiction, but I argued that it was a horror. I used Frankenstein as an example of comparison. Some want to push Mary Shelley's masterpiece off as the first science fiction novel. Not me. That's pure fucking horror. What's more frightening than a man playing God? Also, I kind of think there needs to be some credible science in a story labeled science fiction. Shelley knew as much about reanimating dead tissue as I do about the effects of poisonous gas. Her work, and subsequently Dracula, proved to be the two most influential novels during my college years.