It started innocently enough. I'm a member of Codex, an online writing group, and every year, we have a Halloween story contest. Strictly for fun, you understand. You get a seed from another member, and you're supposed to use it in a spooky story.
For "Wet Work," my seed consisted of a couple of photographs from Ireland--one of a castle gate, complete with portcullis, and the other of an abandoned factory. The two pictures were taken from the same spot, at a crossroads.
So I embarked on a story involving a castle (later a Long Island mansion) in a contemporary setting, and some sinister doings within. I originally conceived of it as a darkly satirical version of The Apprentice, with contestants vying to work for a powerful demon instead of Donald Trump. I know, right? The jokes just write themselves. Hilarious.
But the muse had other plans, as she often does. She's funny that way. For one thing, "Wet Work" became much heavier on the dark than on the satire. In fact, it's one of the nastiest pieces in my repertoire. What that says about me is an exercise I leave to the reader.
For another thing, the story decided it wanted to be a novel.
Which, you know, can be a problem for a short story contest.
What can I say? Something about the Unseen and their evil machinations drew me. The muse visited me with a flash of inspiration, in which I saw not only a much longer story, but a series, and maybe even a career.
"Hold your horses, there," I said to the muse. "We're getting a bit ahead of ourselves, aren't we?"
She agreed that we were--not that it mattered. The tale of Ellie Gibson's encounter with Dontur kept trying to swell, and I kept wrestling with it to keep it at a reasonable length. I finally managed it, as you can see, but the muse was not satisfied. The story would not let go of my imagination.
So shortly after completing it, I expanded it into a novel. Like you do.
Book #2 in the series wants to be written, but I'm holding off for the time being. We'll see what kind of reception the short story gets first. Call it proof of concept. Who knows? If the readers enjoy it, and if the publishing gods are good, you may one day get to read what happened to Ellie after that fateful Halloween night.
Now if you'll excuse me, I think I hear the boss calling. Time to get back to work.