liner notes: lou’s version

I’ve always dug the liner notes. 

And I’ve always wanted to provide something in addition to the stories that I publish. I’ve seen some writers do it in their books. Well, I’ve got no short story collection. Just a few shorts out here and there. I figured Lou’s Version would be a good place to start writing some extras. It’s a favorite of of mine and it ended up on a podcast that I dearly love.

So, here we go.

The story itself is heavily inspired by a documentary titled, Rats (2016). I highly suggest it. If you dig the rats in the story, then I think you’ll get a kick out of the film. It’s terrifying. 

Lou comes from one of the people interviewed in the film. I think I may have even stolen his first name. That may have been an accident. My dad’s name is Lou and, regardless of any one in the film, I wanted to name my main character after my father. Some of the mannerisms are attributed to him (not the killing). If you’re wondering, he quite liked being the main character. In some strange way, he was honored.

Rats was the beginning of the idea. I’ve never found rats to be particularly terrifying. They pop up in Lovecraft (rats in the walls and all that) and there are some Stephen King stories that use rats effectively. For me, I never had the inclination to use them. They felt like an overused trope.

But then Rats and an idea. I can’t tell you much else about it. It’s just how it came out on the page. You’ll think I’m strange, but the story really wrote itself. Lou felt like a character I knew in my head. Even if I had avoided rats, I’ve always been fascinated by a killer’s confessions.

Which brings me to another major source of inspiration. The Iceman Tapes: Conversations with a Killer (1992). 

Whether it was good parenting or not, my parents must have watched The Iceman Tapes a dozen times when I was growing up. Richard Kuklinski. A true madman. As icy as his nickname. 

I don’t know why but I always remembered that old documentary. I don’t know that I ever meant to write a character like Kuklinski, but I can’t say that I didn’t either. He’s a giant piece of shit, but damn he’s compelling.

Lou Sheehan and his rats and his long kill-list is my Richard Kuklinski. A guy who murdered countless people and then had the gall to go on TV to brag about it. 

I wrote this story right before the pandemic. I kind of forgot about it. Now, I wonder if there are other stories for Lou. I don’t know. I never know.

The only other thing I can tell you is the trucking company where Lou takes his victims is based on a real trucking company. I grew up on a country road and a man named Schuck (Schuckie to the locals) ran a small trucking business out of a huge, decrepit old barn. In fact, I used to get the bus on the corner right on the edge of his lot. I figured something secluded and non-assuming would be perfect for the type of work Lou meant to do.

In the end, Lou’s Version is a big moment for me. I know it amounts to about 40 minutes of kick-ass narration. But it’s a story I love and one that really cemented for me that I could write. For better or worse, I could write.

I truly hope you enjoyed it.

ER

 

genre fatigue

There’s only so much of one subject that you can handle.

I consume horror novels at a pretty quick rate. I usually enjoy them and there is something to be said about the types of ideas that they give me in relation to my own fiction. However, there is a time to indulge in genre and a time to take a break from genre.

Reading only horror is not going to make you a good horror writer. Reading only sci-fi is not the key to making you a good sci-fi writer. It is in a diversity of different work that we find opportunity to inject new ideas, styles, or structures into our own work.

I am writing this ideology out on the blog to try and remind myself of its importance.

Lately, I have been back in love with fantasy-related fiction. I can’t get enough. I want to tackle huge, epic fantasy novel series. But I find myself becoming over-saturated with the genre. The tropes are too familiar, the ideas are starting to run together.

Reading widely and spanning genre in that reading is the key to a deeper understanding of the work. Like you should branch out in your writing style, you should always strive to branch out in your reading style. Don’t allow “comfortable” genres to take over. You need to be more diverse in your consumption.

This is a message to myself.

Break out. Find news genres and new authors. Read differing voices and differing styles and find new ways of literary expression.

Don’t fall back into comfort. Comfortable reading is beautiful, but it becomes passive reading if it is limited in scope.

The list of genres that I have been neglecting:

  • Crime
  • Mystery
  • Literary
  • Sci-fi
  • Western
  • Non-fiction

I need to break into something new. I feel sequestered by my focus on fantasy and horror. I’m writing it here so that I can hold myself to the standard that I am setting.

This post is self-serving. It’s a treatise on me and my habits. But I hope it makes you think about what you are reading and the places where you find yourself in literature-tunnel vision. So, break out. Find something new. Challenge yourself in your reading.

ER

emptiness and writing

I think there is a type of emptiness to writing that I have yet to confront.

The process itself is an emptying. I am allowing thoughts and ideas to leave my mind and move onto the page. In some ways, I think that I am giving them permanence. They are no longer etherial, no longer bandied about in my brain. They are on the page. In some ways, they become an absolute. A concrete example of my thinking.

But they are also changeable, erasable. If I lose a document or a note, do I lose the idea? Not fully. No. But in part the idea or the thought or the notion could never be the same as it was when I originally wrote it. If it is replication then it is, of course, a replication. It is no longer original.

By writing and putting the thoughts onto the page I am creating something wholly original to myself. However, I am also removing a part of myself. When I peel away loose skin, it grows back. But the replacement is not the original. It is the replication.

When you think of it that way, writing is a removal of the interior self. The removed portion is made exterior and is no longer apart of the original source.

This is the fear that comes to me most often in writing. What if I were to remove an idea and nothing ever came to replace it? Essentially, what if I eventually say everything that I have to say? What if I have written something that was the best that I could have done and everything else is a dim replication of the only good idea that I had?

I think about this often. Largely because when I finish something I don’t always have an idea waiting for me. I sometimes have false starts and begin to get nervous that there are no more stories in me. Would that be tenable? Could I handle that type of silence?

I can say that I have been writing steadily for nearly two years. About 500 words a night for most nights. Many stories have been finished in that time. Even one novella. Will there always be things to write? Will I run out?

I’m not sure. I can say that I will always have a fear of emptiness. I don’t want to be a dried husk with nothing more to say.

I do, however, have a quote that I look back on often. John Langan once said (I’m paraphrasing) that the imagination was like a dog. If the dog brings you a toy and you refuse to play with it, it will come back again. If you continue to refuse it for long enough, the dog will stop trying. If you refuse new ideas for long enough they will stop coming.

I’ve always thought that was a smart comparison. The imagination and the ability to think of new and interesting ideas is a nudge. Not always a push or pull, but a subtle motion that you have to train your brain to recognize. I feel like I run with most ideas. Even if they are bad or I’m not ready to handle them yet.

But I also often think of emptiness.

ER

vaccine numero uno

It’s in the arm! I am microchipped by Bill Gates.

I am tracked and tagged. I am the sheeple. 

But it’s cool. I’m glad to have been able to be vaccinated. It’s a privilege and I’m really excited. I am the last one in my family to get the shot. Not because I am resistant or scared or against the vaccine. I’m just too young to qualify for the high risk pool. But the higher risk people have been gotten their shots and it is finally my turn.

And my arm hurts. But it feels good.

It means that I can see my family and travel. It means that life can get closer to normal again. We all need that normal. Even me. 

So, I’m excited. I have a laundry list of things that need to get done. The first is seeing my parents. And then I have a wedding to assist in planning. From there, vacations and friends and travel and life. For the first time in a very long time, it feels like all of that is finally possible.

It’s like a deep breath of fresh air. It’s amazing.

So, here we are.

I’m glad to be moving forward with a vaccine in my arm and some optimism on my mind. Like I’ve written before, I feel like the last part of the pandemic really got to me. I had it easy early on. I felt like I was actually thriving in the beginning of the lock down. But it got to me.

The shot, for me, is a new beginning. It’s a new opportunity to move forward with more gusto and vigor and determination. I want to be writing more regularly and submitting much more often and taking more chances. 

It all starts with a vaccine and a willingness to find normal again.

ER