The Germ Factory
A brief description of how my stories came to be.
I was driving up Highway 520 from Albany to Columbus, and I passed this sign on the highway that looked like it was from about 1982.
It seems like I get my best ideas while I'm driving. The first thing I think is, "What a cool name for a bar." Then I start thinking about things - people, mainly - bouncing around this bar. Then I get a mental image of this couple coming down the highway, seeing this swanky looking place, and pulling in. But once they get there, they discover they can't leave. So then I start thinking. . .why can't they leave? Is it a choice? And who else has chosen to stay? and why? By the time I got home, I had the story almost totally plotted out.
The Year of the Dog
This was another driving idea . . . I was on some back country road, and I saw this dog pen thing. It was chain link, with tin lengthwise along the bottom. I thought to myself, "Damn, what are they keeping in there?" Then the thought came to me they were keeping alien dogs. Then I wondered why they didn't just turn the dogs over to the gubmint. Well, the dogs would secrete this fluid that makes you trip. Then the religious aspect came up; what would a backwards, primitive church with an egotistical preacher make of dogs that gave you biblical visions? And how would he try and take advantage of them? I'll admit, the religious aspect made me nervous, because I wasn't sure if I could pull it off, or if it was a direction I wanted to go in. I started plotting, and it came together pretty quick. I wrote the first draft, and it came in at 17,000 words. Which is no man's land, really; too long for a short story, and too short for a novel. Dammit. It went through my regular writing cycle, and then I spent about six months trying to find a way to lengthen it to novel size, and nothing worked. I've discovered every story will be exactly as long as it needs to be; no shorter and no longer. If you're trying to force it, you're either under contract or peeing into the wind. It was an important story for me to write. It was my first longer piece, until I finished Sleeping Sickness. It proved to me I could carry a complex idea and not only pull it off, but write to length.
One morning, my four year old came and woke me up. I played possum, and she climbed on the bed and jumped up and down, shook me, and eventually left the room to get her sister. As I was driving to work (seeing a pattern here?) I wondered what they (my girls) would do if they couldn't wake me or my wife up one morning. Better yet. . .what if all the adults in an entire subdivision couldn't awaken? Or world wide? how would the kids organize? Who would be in charge? I saw all types of potential in that story line, and immediately came up with my three major plot points. The only problem was. .. .I didn't have an ending. Six months later, it hit me, and it was perfect. I won't spoil any of the novel, but it flowed. You get a sense as a writer what will and won't fit, and the ending fit like a glove. So I sat down and starting writing scene to scene; "What do I need to write to get HERE?" and it came together.