I just wrote a comment to Vegas Princess on one of my posts from last week, and in it I mentioned my first book. I don’t know that I have ever talked much about the other things I have written…the two novels I did actually finish writing. And the play. So because I’m growing bored with just writing about my day to day struggles with the crap in my head and all of that, today I’ll switch it out and talk about these strange books and why I am embarrassed of them.
Wait. I’m not really embarrassed; that is probably the wrong word. I guess I could say I’m not really into talking about them or showing them off to people, because they’ve always felt kind of personal and the subject matter in both of them is the kind of stuff that makes some people–myself included– squirm a little.
Plus, since I have a very real obsession with wanting to read and write only in the first-person, there have been a couple of times when people have had a little trouble separating me from the character who is talking. This is SO WEIRD to me, and that alone makes me afraid to share sometimes. It’s almost like some people are just really stupid, you know? And they don’t have the capacity to just read a story for what it is and not think that everything someone writes is autobiographical just because it’s in that first person narrative. Even so…even if it has been the dumber of my friends (forgive me, wherever you are! Although I doubt any of you would even know I’m still alive, let alone blogging, so you aren’t reading this, I’d guess), it freaked me out enough back when I was still developing as a writer to sort of scar me in a way.
I’m much better about this whole thing now, and in fact, I never hear that anyone is mistaking my character’s voice for my voice. Mostly, I think it’s because I’m having older, more experienced readers looking at my stuff than I did way back when I was 16 or so. And, I like to think, I could be a stronger writer than I used to be…? I don’t know.
OK, so, getting back on point: my first book. Let’s talk about it.
In sixth and seventh grade, I was obsessed with horror stories. I read Stephen King all the time, burning through books like Pet Semetary in a couple of days; I loved an obscure Dean R. Koontz book called Twilight Eyes so much I began re-reading it as soon as I finished it the first time (in fact I still love it– go check it out!); and I would buy those really horrible paperback horror novels they sold in the grocery store, with names like “Skeleton Dancer”, “Blood Plague,” and “Fear.” God bless my parents, who didn’t seem to mind that their daughter wanted all of this gory, terrible stuff to read. Every now and then they’d tease me about it, but they never made me feel bad for wanting to think about dark things, death and horror.
I also loved the show Amazing Stories. And the Twilight Zone, of course. I thought the little short-story aspect of a lot of those episodes was really fun. I wasn’t scared of most of the stories told; in fact, many of the ones that were supposed to be scary were really very funny to me. There was something with a haunted toupee in one episode of AS, and it was hysterical. [Found it! It was called Hell Toupee! I love it.] Whoever put on this toupee would do horrible things because the toupee controlled them. I think the final shot of the episode was the toupee, lying on the floor in some old shop, and just when you think it’s all over, the toupee starts crawling across the floor and there was a tiny, evil laugh heard faintly over the credits.
That’s the thing that inspired me to start writing. THAT. A crawling, laughing toupee!
See, I wanted to do the campy thing. But I also wanted to be really far out there with making up the weirdest stuff I could; the grossest things I could think of. Years later, when I finally saw Sam Reimi and Bruce Campbell in Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2, I was shocked because THAT WAS IT! That’s what I had been going for back when I wrote my horror book! And I wasn’t upset, like, “Oh, damn, someone else has done it”… instead I felt vindicated, like I was on the right track. Hey, someone put money int0 making those movies! Someone believed in that formula! All right!
So, my book went like this:
A 15 year old boy, Jon, gets a job after school in the crappy antique store in town, Hartman Antiques. His boss was a half-dead, nasty little old man, Mr. Hartman. Jon’s best friend Bones works in the ice cream shop his Mom runs, next door. Jon wishes he could work there because all the people from school came in there and it was bright and happy… and the antique store was just dusty, dark and quiet. No one ever came in except weird people dressed all in black and old people.
One night Bones comes in the shop after he gets off of working his shift and the two of them start messing around with the antiques, looking through stuff, making fun of things, and they come across an old trunk, locked and oddly enough, tied with old rope. They can’t resist. They cut the ropes, and pry the lock open.
When they open it, a cold wind rushes upward out of the box, and a weird high pitched screechy sound fills the air. Then, it’s over. They both think they imagined it, although they both thought it was pretty cool and scary and start pretending that they let a ghost out of the trunk or something.
And then weird things start happening to both of them over the next few days. Bad luck kinds of things. From simple stuff like losing their homework to almost getting hit by cars. Then one night, Bones is attacked in his house when he was alone. He called Jon to come help him, and when he gets there, his friend is bleeding all over from a bunch of cuts. A knife comes flying out of the air– the one that apparently attacked Bones– and goes after Jon, too. But Jon grabs it to stop it, and then a force takes over and Jon stabs Bones. After a long time of me describing this scene, they call 911. But just as the paramedics get there, the force takes over again and makes Jon attack Bones against his will. The paramedics see this. Police get involved.
Bones dies the next day, and Jon is suspected as killing his friend, which no one can understand. They were best friends from when they were little kids. (This is where I threw in a whole subplot with his older sister getting married to a real jerk who likes to bully around Jon and his friends, and issues with his parents fighting sometimes… this was so the other characters would start think this was Jon acting out because of the changes in his life.)
All kinds of things happen, and at one point a creature of some sort (we never see it, it’s inside the wall) bites off two of his fingers–trying to rip his hand off at the wrist– and he winds up in the hospital. The wrist marks, the nearby knife (he had been making a PB&J sandwich at the time of the attack) makes people think he tried to kill himself. Now they all think he’s crazy. But…
…Jon has been hearing voices. Demon voices (dum dum duuuum!), seeing a ‘witch’ lady standing outside his house, and the same cold wind that they felt in the antique shop is present whenever this bad stuff happens, and he knows: he has been cursed. But he can’t get anyone to believe him, of course.
It turns out that he and Bones did let a spirit out of that trunk. It was the spirit of a revered Satanic priestess named Geneva. (Sidenote: I named her that because I had just done a report on the country of Geneva for school. Dork!) Mr. Hartman was actually a lifelong cult member, and he was charged with guarding her resting place. There was some kind of reason she couldn’t be buried in the ground… I can’t remember… and I should have written this when I had the book in front of me, maybe…! But anyway, when they opened the trunk, Jon and Bones were cursed and ‘marked for death.’
Geneva needed to gain strength and power though, so that’s why the attacks started small and got worse and worse. She fed on fear, or something. (!) But finally, she takes on corporal demon form and Mr. Hartman kidnaps Jon and his girlfriend as they’re walking home from the movies one night and takes them to some underground cave (or something… again, I can’t remember exactly) so they can be killed in a ritual to bring Geneva back to full human form. Her followers, I guess, decided it was better to get her back to being human than having her angry spirit floating around because it was disturbed… this cracks me up. But I was only 14 or so when I wrote this, so I didn’t have all of the plot holes figured out. Hee.
So, gross stuff happens like skin being ripped off of Jon’s back and (gag) melted in a crucible (GUESS WHICH BOOK I HAD TO READ FOR SCHOOL!) in front of him… and he escapes somehow and the demon-version of Geneva chases him down, they have a fight on a railroad track (hell yeah) and–OH I FORGOT to mention the ghost-priest-friend he made! Yeah, some priest dude who had been killed by Geneva when she was alive has stayed around, haunting the church and hoping to “banish her soul to Hell” forever, if he got the chance. Well, ghost priest dude joins the fight against Geneva and somehow it works… she gets sucked to Hell, Hartman’s Antiques burns to the ground… and everything gets better, la la la.
But don’t ya know it: six months later, Jon is walking happily down the street past the spot where Hartman’s Antiques used to be, and sees that a tree has appeared pretty much out of nowhere. No way a tree could grow that fast, right? Uh-oh. And it’s especially uh-oh when he goes close to the tree to see that GENEVA WAS HERE was carved into the trunk!!
Ohhh man. I’m laughing as I type this.
Good thing I meant it to be campy. Otherwise I’d question everything about my ability to tell a story! I still think, though, that the book is hilarious because of all the 14-year-old-naivete that’s all over the place. I mean, that corny ending is beyond the levels of what corny can realistically be. But there are soooo many funny things in the book. For instance:
* I thought that marijuana was an injected drug. Jon’s mother yells at him in a moment of desperation: “I don’t know what to do with you! Now you’re shooting up marijuana!”
* I had them live in a quaint little movie-town with a drive-in movie place, the ice cream shop where everyone hung out, and Friday night football games were the big thing that everyone in town went to. Jon was on the football team, too… I knew NOTHING about football, except that there was a position called “quarterback.” So Jon was the quarterback. But alas, Jon was also one of the shortest kids in his class and was, presumably, kind of a pussy because of all the crap with being attacked by invisible demons–and losing the fight every time. I highly doubt he’d be the quarterback! More like a benchwarmer or the water boy.
* His friend Bones is called Bones because he likes horror movies and stuff. Not because he is a “trekkie.” I’m glad I was wise enough to point this out to the readers. I remember at the time I felt so cool because I knew who Bones was on Star Trek. None of my friends knew about Star Trek! I was so cool… yeah right.
I actually wrote that book twice; once in longhand on looseleaf paper, and the second draft was on the computer. I rewrote the whole thing and only changed a couple of parts. I can’t believe I did all of this before I was 15. The thought of doing that now, with my current books, makes me want to throw up. But I was prolific back then. It’s what I did.
And I did it a lot of times when I shouldn’t have. Like in class. I got caught writing it once instead of doing my work (we were supposed to be reading or something and instead I was writing away like a maniac) but the teacher didn’t give me a hard time, she just said, “OK, put it away” and that was it. But another time I was passing a new chapter I’d just written the night before and printed out on my awesome dot matrix printer (SWEET) to my friend Gina, and my English teacher came over and grabbed it from Gina’s hand. “What is this?” she said and the whole class stopped what they were doing. The teacher started reading, and she didn’t say anything for a few minutes… and then she asked, “Who wrote this?” like it was a bad thing. She looked at me, since I passed it to Gina, and I kind of nodded. “SEE ME AFTER CLASS.” She kept the chapter, all the kids started with “ooooh, you’re in trouble!” and all that shit, and I blushed so hard I wanted to cry.
Bitch teacher read the whole chapter, and after class asked me “what is this all about?” and I told her it was a part of a book I was working on, and she made a face and said stuff like, “these are not nice images here; and you should not be sharing this with the other girls, especially during class.” She gave me back the pages, and I hurried down the hall and ran to the bathroom and cried a little out of embarassment and shame.
And then… that bitch called my MOM. Told her about the “violent imagery” I was writing about, wanted to know if everything was “OK at home.” Oh…My…GOD. Fortunately, my Mom is awesome, and said, yes, everything is fine, of course. She told her that she and my Dad encourage my writing, and see it as my hobby, and while she didn’t particularly like the stuff I was interested in, they didn’t see any harm in me being interested in horror.
Yay, Mom! And after that, my bitch teacher left me alone. But I was always ashamed around here, from that point on. I felt like when she looked at me she saw an evil-minded little mental case with all kinds of problems. She was definitely one of those people that couldn’t fathom that WOW, there might actually be girls who enjoy reading heavy and scary stuff. That there could be girls that would choose the Stephen King book over the Sweet Valley High book. She was really old-fashioned and sexist, in my opinion. She made me feel like a failure as a young lady. I say this because she seemed to fawn over the popular and pretty girls, laughing at their little jokes. Me and my couple of friends? Ugh. We just took up space.
Well, during the summer between 7th and 8th grade, I began my next book which was not a straight-out horror novel, but something a little more creepy: I’d figured out I had a real interest in psychological horror. Real life situations, no demons… just psychopaths and people committing corporate fraud. YES, CORPORATE FRAUD in the PHARMACEUTICAL WORLD.
Maybe I’ll write about that book sometime. We’ll see.
But Geneva’s Curse will always be special to me, because it was my first real book (that I finished) and the one that my friends from back then always remember. My best friend says that one day if we start a band, it will have to be named Peanut Butter and Blood Sandwich. That’s because in that scene where Jon gets his fingers munched off, he was making a PB&J sandwich, but when he took a bite, he realized that ain’t jelly. It had somehow turned into blood. Ewww. And–genius! Perfect for the campy tone! I didn’t know then how sophisticated my writing really was for someone my age. I should have gathered my courage and found an agent, damn it. I could have been some odd child-prodigy horror writer. If I wrote that shit today, no one would give a crap. Oooh, a 34-year old, coming up with camp. How unique. Go away, isn’t there some coffee shop you should be sitting in with your laptop?!
Well, this was fun for a Monday. Remembering Geneva and her damn’ed Curse. It reminds me of what I always refer to as the years when “I was actually a writer.” Those were the days!
Oh, to be young and weirder than the other kids again!!