Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Blood on the Page and Blood in Your Dreams

You’ve heard the term “blood on the page,” right? Means the author tapped a vein for inspiration, utilizing life experiences, emotions, events for fictional fodder, only the names have been changed to protect the innocent. Makes for gripping storytelling, for crucial reality, for living, breathing characterization, though you wouldn’t know how much blood was on the page unless you  knew the author personally or said author pulled back the curtain, as Brian Keene has done many times on his podcast. At this point, I think it’s pretty safe to say that most coming of age stories are fueled by the author's blood, veins tapped like kegs for ripe inspiration, sometimes maybe too much so, particularly for those who lived it, but it's not the only way.

Sure, I’ve bled on the page here and there, but let’s face it, ideas are all around us, buried in experience, hiding behind unusual facades, ready to slip into our minds and take root. I ask you to take this little ride in exploring the roots of my novella Brothers in Blood, because there is virtually none of my own blood on this one. It’s pure fantasy (set in the real world without supernatural elements, not sword and sorcery fantasy!), completely drawn from my imagination . . . and a number of outside influences. So come with me, let’s take a ride.

In a nutshell, Brothers in Blood is the story of Kyle and Lyle Morris, twin brothers who murder people for two very different reasons. One brother is mentally disabled and the other is mentally deranged. Lyle has a caregiver, Desiree, who finally feels content in life when her ex returns out of nowhere to torment her. Things happen, bad, bad things, and soon enough everyone is tangled in quite a messed up web of madness and perversion.

The first element of the story I came up with was the twin brothers, but originally they were characters in two separate stories, and they were inspired by an episode of Taboo or My Strange Addiction, I can’t remember which one. The episode dealt with a man who liked pretending that he was a baby. He wore diapers and bibs and even had an adult sized crib made for him. I started thinking about the awful extremes of someone with that kind of mental state and wrote two separate short stories, one dealing with a serial killer who dressed as a baby while murdering hookers with a giant bulb syringe, and another about a mentally deformed man with the mind of a toddler who kept the faces of those he murdered and stitched them together into a comfort blanket. The stories weren’t all that good. There was just something off about them, so I didn’t do much to look for a magazine or anthology to send them to. But the characters stayed in my mind.

One day it occurred to me that they were two very different people, yet so similar . . . like sicko twins. That’s when the seeds that had germinated in the writing of those stories sprouted into the beginnings of a novella. I developed a pretty good idea of how the twin brothers coexist and feed off of one another to achieve their unusual goals, sadistic and absurd as they may be. I thought about how these men got to this point in life and what kind of tragedy could have spurred them down such a damaged path. This was all good and well, however it occurred to me that I needed a protagonist, I needed a story. I won’t go into detail, because I don’t want to ruin the story for those of you who have not read it yet, but I decided that Lyle, being a grown man with the mind of a toddler, would very likely have a caregiver, particularly since he and his brother live off of many facets of the system from Medicaid to Welfare to cash aid. One of the requirements for some of the aid Lyle is receiving is having a caregiver visit on a weekly basis. Enter Desiree, a woman whose life is finally going in the right direction. She loves helping people, has a steady boyfriend, and has finally gotten over her psycho, stalker ex . . . and then she comes home to find a rose and a note on her doorstep, and her world begins to crumble.

I’ve always admired the way Richard Laymon laid down his stories, often with twists and turns that keep the pace ratcheted up and the reader turning the pages. With Brothers in Blood I intended on doing the same thing by introducing another antagonist, one with a fetish of his own. He’s a sick man with nothing to lose, which are perhaps the scariest of deviants. I won’t say much about him, because I’d rather he was revealed to the reader organically than here in an essay. I again went to shows like My Strange Addiction for inspiration. I’ll leave it at that.
Now, I have a story, I’ve written the first draft, but for the life of me I can’t come up with a title. I don’t remember what the working title was. I have about six unfinished stories with variations on “Untitled,” so I try to give each new story a fill-in title to avoid confusion. Titles are important, and I’ve not been very happy with my other book titles. Through the In Between, Hell Awaits? Michael Arnzen asked, at a convention, “So what’s with the long title?” Yeah, should have called that one Hell Awaits. People of the Ethereal Realm? Not bad, but… In Black? I kinda like that title. It was originally called Paint it Black, but I figured people would think the Rolling Stones were somehow weaved into the plot or something like in a Greg Kihn book. So one day I’m at work listening to Anthrax on my ipod. I was plotting the ending of the story in my head (I tend to plot while driving or at work, that way I’m ready to write when I sit my ass in front of the computer). I was listening to the album Persistence of Time. Anthrax fans might know where I’m going with this. The song “Blood” was on. So close to finishing the first draft, I was actually running possible titles through my head, and then the chorus hit: “Brother on, brother on, brothers in blood!”

I have my title. Yes, there are other books with that title (kinda popular with books on war and soldier camaraderie), but it fit the novella so well that I had to use it, and I have no regrets. It’s catchy, looks good on the cover, and fits the story very well. So, though I didn’t bleed on the pages of this particular novella, it certainly is covered in blood. In the first weeks sales have been good. Better than any of my prior releases. This pleases me greatly. If you have read it, consider reviewing it on Amazon whether you loved it, liked it, or hated it. The reviews help the book get traction, and, of course, I appreciate the effort. Thanks!

Brothers in Blood is available on Amazon for $1.99, or FREE with your Amazon Unlimited subscription. Purchase the book in the US, UK, or from Amazon wherever you happen to reside across the globe.

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