January 24th, 2012


This Is How My Literary Mind Works

People ask me where I get my story ideas. Let me give you an example from last night.

Heidlersburg is a small, sleepy burg located in south-central Pennsylvania with two churches, lots of houses, no stores and no post office. Surrounded by state-owned game lands to the southwest, a large mobile home park to the south and farmland everywhere else, most people would drive through it on Route 234 without giving the town a thought.

A thick fog rolled in sometime early Monday morning and last night it still clung to the area. With snow on the ground, one could not tell where the ground ended and the mist began. Cars would come out of the fog like two-eyed dragons, visible for a few seconds, and then disappear, the red rear lights fading quickly in the dark and heavy mist.

My youngest son and I went to run an errand and when I stepped outside, both of us noticed the air had an unusual stench. Having lived in Heidlersburg nigh onto 16 years I had never smelled this before. Farmers spread fertilizer on their fields on a regular basis and the town is bordered to the west with large commercial egg farms, but the reek of manure is far different than what we smelled last night.

Somehow I got the mental picture of tons of putrid cabbage, slimy and wet, exploding somewhere into the night air. Without speaking in exaggeration, I can assure you the smell made me physically ill and it was with relief my son and I got into the car and drove away.

Later on the way back home, as soon as we entered the southern border of town, the stench met us with a vengeance, filling our car with that sickly, sour smell. Fortunately, when we drove to the western border of the town where we live, the air there could be breathed without revulsion. Whatever the source of the stink, it had moved on.

And suddenly, I remembered a line from H. P. Lovecraft’s fictitious work of occult horror, the dreaded Necronomicon and I shuddered:

The Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall be. Not in the spaces we know, but between them, they walk serene and primal, undimensioned and to us unseen. … They had trod earth's fields, and where They still tread them, and why no one can behold Them as They tread. By Their smell can men sometimes know Them near, but of Their semblance can no man know, … They walk unseen and foul in lonely places … As a foulness shall ye know Them.

And I wondered to myself later in the comfort of my warm and well-illuminated home, if I would find disturbing prints in the snowy field just beyond my back porch if I was brave enough to look. What would I have seen if my sight had not been sheltered by the night and the mist? What horror, I asked myself, dragged its stinking bulk through the back fields of Heidlersburg tonight under the cover of fog and dark?

You’ll see this in a story and this how I get my ideas.

Have a nice day. ;-)