I started writing short stories when I was in junior high school. They were all inspired by The Lord of the Rings. I still have one, I think. It's called "An Unwelcome Party." In it, Gimli and a band of dwarves track an ancient spirit through Middle-earth. Back then, I always played D&D with my little brother and a bunch of friends. We pretended to be Tolkien characters. I carried my D&D books in my backpack. My parents never knew I didn't carry any school books around because I always got good grades. We moved from NYC to Phoenix when I was 11, and the schools in AZ were a joke at the time. Still are, I imagine.
My older brother's friend let me borrow a copy of Stephen King's Night Shift the summer before I started ninth grade. That book changed my life. I loved every story in that collection, but the one that really got me going was "Gray Matter." I always loved The Blob and something about how the father transformed into a sludge-like monster scared the fuck out of me. Of course, I'm a Daddy's boy through and through, so that just amplified my fear.
I wrote my first horror story called "A Blade Too Short" at that time. It's about a little boy who gets off the school bus and is chased home by a gelatinous cube (yes, still playing D&D by then). When he gets inside, he can't find anyone, so he runs upstairs and tries to get into the attic, but he's too short to reach the pull-down string. The blob gets him, of course. My mom, who helped edit all my stories then and I love her for it, also tried to publish that one for me. She sent it out to a bunch of magazines. Nobody picked it up.
Stephen King once said you get enough rejection slips to wallpaper your bathroom. I believe everything he says and have never stopped listening to him. Honestly, I love the guy. I wish I could meet him one day. I tried to hook up with him at an author's conference once but couldn't get tickets. He jokingly sent me a Three Stooges postcard and suggested I try waiting tables. How fucking cool.