Guest Post: Morgan K. Tanner
Once upon a time, when the sky bled black and the oceans filled with the bloody entrails of the victims of The Great Old Ones, I entered a writing competition.
The first round was to write a 100 word story. This sounded hard, and actually, it was hard. When you really think about it, 100 words isn't that much. And turning those 100 words into a story? Ahem, well how do you do that exactly?
Well I wasn't to be deterred. My love is horror, which helped as this was a horror writing competition. I wondered whether extreme gore with chunks of slimy and necrotic body parts would be the way to go, trying to induce violent vomiting to the reader. But no, it needed to be a story, albeit a 'blink-and-you-miss-it' one.
Finally, after a good old think about what to write about, an idea came. And it stuck. A man who has skinned a human body and built a cute little shrine with the leftovers. That sounded cool. But was it enough?
I focused my attention on the actual skin, made the protagonist treat it like a prized piece of expensive clothing and had him admiring its complexity and beauty. The story ended with the skin speaking to him. I wanted a cliffhanger ending, although trying to wrap everything up neatly in 100 words was always going to be tricky anyway.
After a few drafts and edits, which still took ages even though it was only a hundred bloody words, I was proud of the finished article. I couldn't wait to send it off.
So what happened to this submission? Was I lauded by the organisers on my superb conjuring of carnage, celebrated for my shocking skin story?
No. In fact it was quite the opposite, simply an impersonal, 'It's not for us' rejection.
So I proceeded to find their address, bought some skin removing tools, rented a kill room.... I jest. I maybe muttered something under my breath as I read the email, but I was cool about it, kind of.
But in hindsight, I'm glad. Come on, I was never going to win the thing, getting through the first round was all I really hoped for.
So after burning my laptop and dancing around the flames as my collection of un-submitted stories were consumed by the infernal fires, I still couldn't get that story, that premise out of my mind.
What if I turned those 100 words into more, a short story, or even....... a novella? 'What madness is this?' I hear you cry. Could I do it? Would it work? Should I try?
Long story short, I did. Flayed humans whose dead skins come to life? That was too good an idea to throw away in the bodybag. I gave my skin-remover a name, and a motivation that led him to these wicked acts.
And so, An Army of Skin was born.
Trevor is murdering prostitutes and skinning them, before constructing their bodies into various art pieces. He's doing all of this in the name of sweet, sweet revenge, though. Revenge against the man he holds responsible for his dear mommy's death. He's trying to frame him for these horrific murders.
But the road to Vengeanceville is plagued with emotion, eventually leading on a detour to Insane Town. And that's pretty much where our anti-hero Trevor ends up.
Is it pretentious for the writer to describe their work as having twists and turns, or is that up to the reader? I'll put it like this then; I tried to add twists and turns and, from the small number of reviews I've had so far, I don't think I did too badly.
This being my debut novella, I was obviously very apprehensive about releasing it to the world. Is it any good? Will people like it? Is it structured properly? Are the characters realistic? Of course, none of those I can answer without bias. I've had a few short stories published in magazines and online, but a full-length opus is a different matter entirely.
But even if I am slated as a talentless hack masquerading as a writer, who cares? I've put a lot of work into this story and I'm immensely proud of what I achieved. So I'm a happy man.
I already have a plan for my writing 'career' in the future. I'm currently sitting on nine short stories, a couple of which have been published a few years ago, but these are the Versions 2.0, if you like. Hopefully this will be released later on this year.
Following that, I hope to release a novel. This one I wrote about three or four years ago. It's been sitting on my computer since then and I'm sure when I go back to it I'll notice many errors, but hopefully these can be rectified by the experienced I've gained since writing it. Unfortunately I don't think this one is that funny. Although maybe the humour wormed its way into that one without me noticing, who knows? It's been a while since I read it.
Many thanks for reading this far and if my insight has whetted your sadistic appetite for horror and gore, then you can always go and check out An Army of Skin for yourself. It's free to read on Kindle Unlimited, how awesome is that?
And finally, my sincere thanks to Jim Archuletta and Kelly Hay for allowing me to share my ramblings with their fantastic readers. I'm reaching an exciting time in my writing 'career' and hope you can come along and join me for the ride. It sure is going to be gore-soaked, but hopefully that doesn't put you off!