Monday, April 7, 2014

Hug a Tree

I published three stories in the late 90's that I'm quite proud of.  This was just after I got my Master's.  I was teaching middle school English in the Phoenix area and trying to resurrect my writing career.  Of course, I was also busy producing theatre. 

The first was a strange tale called "Hug a Tree."  I got the title from something one of my creative writing professors once said, "Don't tell us a character is happy, show us.  Have him hug a tree."  Of course, that didn't seem to show joy to me, so I quickly drafted a tale about a carpenter who dies accidentally.  The story also weaves in a tale of a mother struggling to get her sick child to drink blood from Jesus' wounds while He dangles on the cross.  And another anecdote that has God harassing someone in Hell.  (Dante puts the souls of suicide victims in trees in the Seventh Circle.)  They all had people clinging to trees in one way or another and seemed to fit.  When the story was accepted in Black Petals horror magazine, the editor wrote, "we don't know what the hell this is about, but we love it."  That pretty much sums up the story.

Black Petals also took the next one, "Cool."  This is a bit more straightforward.  It's about a crazy air conditioner repairman who's killed by a werewolf.  All along, you think the repairman is the monster, but the end definitely has a twist.  The idea of the twist ending kind of intrigued me, so I quickly wrote another called "Doctor Kempelen's Expected Arrival" that was heavily inspired by Ambrose Bierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge."  The story appears to be about a man who goes back to visit his childhood home, where he was abused, but is really a flash-forward.  While being beaten by his stepmother, the child daydreams about what it will be like to return to the home as an adult.  This was accepted by Dark Corridors, another horror magazine.

I was on a roll!  Both magazines wanted me to keep submitting.  My success was even covered in the local newspaper.  For the first time, my name on a best seller list actually seemed possible.  Or at least worth pursuing.  Then everything stopped.  I bought a new home, changed jobs, got married, had a child, and moved to North Carolina.  Somehow, writing got lost again.  Of course, I blamed Stephen King.  If only he hadn't gotten run over while out walking!  It must've somehow put a curse on me just like when the Gypsy touched Billy Halleck in Thinner.

But this time, my absence was not as long as before.  Crow Creek (not italicized) was right around the corner.

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