The Cold Dread of Editing/Rewriting

Earlier this morning I finished the first draft of an art/fiction project I’ve been working on for awhile now. There’s definitely a certain thrill and sense of satisfaction when reaching the end, in particular when the story resolves itself in a satisfying way.

Yet, there’s always that dread at the end, or even while writing, that there’s going to be the inevitable editing/rewriting process. As any writer knows, it can be a tedious process. One that can cause self-doubt and frustration. It’s not uncommon to write a first draft that seems like a great piece only to go back through and realize you have no idea what the hell you were thinking the first time around.  Sometimes a piece like that can be salvaged and rewritten or perhaps totally scrapped and used solely as background info for writing an entirely new piece.

Personally, I found the best way to go through the editing process is to correct spelling and grammar first, then I listen to an audio version of the piece. It’s pretty amazing what a difference hearing it read aloud can make when it comes to sentence structure, dialogue, and other aspects of the prose. A lot of the issues that come up are things I don’t necessarily notice when reading silently or aloud myself. Then I go back and fix those issues.

In terms of continuity errors and etc, I use the program Scrivener for my projects which makes highlighting and adding notes to a project or specific sections pretty easy. I avoid going back and fixing something while writing the first draft, because I find it only encourages self-doubt and second guessing myself while trying to write the story. I think the first draft is more about getting the idea, plot, characters and etc down on the page,  and not about passive voice, exposition, and all the other 1001 neurotic ‘rules’ writers face.




Last Exit/Feed Your Monster

My sci-fi/horror flash fiction story Last Exit is now up on the website Feed Your Monster.

Synopsis: A lone survivor finds a means out of the wasteland, but trouble tags along for the ride.

You can read it for free via this link: Last Exit on Feed Your Monster

The Alternate Reality of Art

The other day while driving home from work, I was listening to an interview with an author. At one point the interviewer asked her if she ‘mined’ her daily life for inspiration. The author’s response was that she did not, and that writing was an alternative reality for her.

As a creative person I could really relate to that idea. For me writing and drawing has always been about escapism. I’ve never really been one to draw upon my daily experiences and the people in my life when it came to sitting down at the keyboard or drawing table. I’ve known plenty of writer friends that will base a character on their ex-spouse or idiot next door neighbor, and subject them to a horrible fate. I understand the idea about doing such things, it can be theraputic I am sure, but I’ve never delved into it.

For me it’s far more appealing to create a world and characters that don’t remind me of the everyday.  A world where the fantastic and macabre can occur. Where the rules and rubbish of the real world do not hold sway over it. In a lot of ways it’s like when I was a kid playing with my action figures in the sandbox. It could be whatever I wanted it to be, and could evolve and develop according to my imagination’s whim. The moment something reminds me of the real world, it shatters the illusion of the ‘alternate’ reality.

I think that ‘alternative reality’ is a good label since whenever I’m fully immersed in a good novel, movie/show, art exhibit, play, music, etc, my life filled with working overtime and paying the mortgage and chasing my kids around fades away.  Whatever creative piece of art I’m partaking in does seem real and does trasport me to another realm. That’s the power of creativity in all its forms, and that’s what keeps me coming back to it.


How To Hurt An Artist …

Earlier this week I came across a clever cartoon over on Hyperallergic concerning the trite and backhanded comments people dole out to artists. If you’ve been involved in any type of art, be it writing, visual, music, etc, I’m sure you’ve come across people like those in the cartoon. Comments like ‘My five year old could do that!’ or ‘People pay you for this?’

My personal favorite is when someone says to me something along the lines of, ‘Do you know (insert name of trendy author/artist/etc)? He’s awesome and makes a lot of money. You should do stuff like him!’

It’s always a gringe inducing experience when someone says something like that. I remember when I was back in community college and taking my first painting course. We had to do critiques in class of each others’ work and one of the things that drove the instructor (a man I learned a ton about making art from) nuts was when one of the little old ladies in the class would say, ‘Well … it’s interesting.’ The reason it pissed him off was because that phrase really doesn’t say anything at all. It would be fine if it was followed up by some constructive feedback, but by itself it is simply code for ‘I’m uncomfortable with this and can’t put together any real thought.’ Which an insult to the artist and the class as a whole.

Years ago, before I met my wife, I went on a date with this woman who asked me if I felt ‘depressed or angry’ because I was a connoisseur of people like H.P. Lovecraft and H.R. Giger as well making art along similar themes. I seem to remember laughing in her face, and telling her ‘No.’ Art and the themes I chose to work with are a creative/intellectual experiment and a form of escapism. If they made me depressed or angry I don’t think I’d be going to work everyday or going out on dates, let alone making more Art.

I suppose that from the outside the world of the creative person can be alien to some people but such callous remarks that mean next to nothing or are just plain insulting aren’t excusable.

These days I don’t get horribly upset if someone says something trite or belittling to me about my persuit of writing and drawing. I realize not everyone gets it and that some people want to knock people down. But I’m passionate and making the Art that I do, and those type of people aren’t going to get in my way.

The other day I saw this quote from Georgia O’Keefe which I thing sums it  all up very well.

“I have already settled it for myself so flattery and criticism go down the same drain and I am quite free.”

Feel free to leave any experiences you’ve had with back handed compliments etc from others in regard to your creative work.

Scarlet Screams The Phoenix; A Flash Fiction Story

This is a short piece that I wrote about ten years ago. I did a little bit of editing to it and tweaked the ending just a bit, but overall it’s as it was when originally written. The original genesis of the idea came about by trying to put a spin on the same old same old vampire story. Also at the time there was an arsonist in the city I lived in setting fires to abandoned houses/industrial buildings. The outcome was this bit of flash fiction.

I post it here for your amusement, I still like the story although its a little rough around the edges from a ‘writerly’ point of view.

Be forewarned there are certain elements that some may find offensive …





With the subtle flick of her wrist the match head came to life with a delectable hiss and a heady aroma.

Celia placed the flickering flame between her bone thin thumb and forefinger letting it burn until it caressed her flesh.

Celia felt nothing.

She let the charred corpse of the match stick descend like Lucifer. It smoldered on a floor covered with crumpled fetish magazines and empty cans of lighter fluid. Celia pulled another match out and lit it while she walked over to a thread bare couch Old VHS tapes and dog-eared paperbacks laid haphazardly on a milk crate that served as her coffee table.

Celia studied the back cover of the movie, The Hunger for a moment before tossing it over shoulder. The movie was useless, it held none of the advice she sought for her condition. Although Celia found David Bowie insanely hot, his character in the movie seemed just as confused and misdirected as her. But then again she shouldn’t have expected to find salvation from a rock star.

What had happened to her was nothing like the Stephen King, Anne Rice, or Richard Mathewson novels, either. No seduction followed by a blood letting. Not a charming man, or affable woman. There was no primal beast like Max Ernst in Nosferatu.

All Celia could remember, when she tried hard, is the fire. All about her. Suffocating, and embracing. Smoke thicker than the night. The anguished screams. The gut-wrenching stench of burnt hair and broiling flesh. The charred bodies surrounding her. Men crying like little boys. Old women begging for a miracle escape. Hysterical mothers clutching the unnervingly still bundles of their babies.

Then she saw It. It came through the wall of flames cloaked in ash and fire. All Celia remembered was the embrace of an unearthly flame.

Since that fateful night her skin has been one immense burn scar. Cracked and wrinkled like old leather instead of the fair complexion of her former teen age self. Celia found out soon that the sunlight burned horrendously, forcing her to dwell in the night.

She knew she wasn’t dead, she still breathed and pissed. Although she could eat food, something in the bowls of her soul yearned for something more. It sang in her ear, lingered inher memories like echoes in a deep canyon. Celia spent endless nights writhing in agony as It sang to her. Her feverish head filled with heinous images of charred flesh and hot blood. Flesh ripped from a man’s femur. The visceral onslaught made her wretch, but something deep down inside her grew agitated like a chained dog outside a butcher’s shop.

One night when Celia woke she found a box of matches and a can of lighter fluid beside her. A note was scrawled on a pack of cigarettes ‘Scarlet Screams the Phoenix’. She didn’t know why, but it seemed familiar to her.

Celia took the stuff outside, intending toss it in the dumpster. She didn’t know where to go, or who would help her but she couldn’t live like this any more. Before she got a few yards from her door, the deep down writhing sensation hit her like a sledge hammer. She doubled over and fell to her knees.

She sucked air through her clenched teeth as sweat dripped from her furrowed brow. She wondered if this was what death felt like. Perhaps her injuries from the fire had finally caught up to her. Yet something urged her to her stumbling feet. Each foot fall felt forced, as she were a marionette controlled by some ambiguous puppeteer.

Celia staggered across the street to the local seminary school. She watched as her charred hands curled into fists and busted out a back window. She watched in stupefied horror as her body doused the room with lighter fluid. Even more disturbing was the way the stench of the fluid aroused her. A warmth grew between her legs and rushed up her withered body. Her head spun and a soft moan escaped her broiled lips.

Her hips writhed as she flicked her wrist and lit the match. A wave of ecstasy rushed over her, consuming every inch of her scorched body. A primal groan rattled out of her ruined throat as she staggered backward. She leaned against the wall and gasped for breath as the flames danced across the floor and lapped at the walls as teasingly as a lover’s tongue. The fire washed over her, she was no longer dead flesh and bone. She was purified by its pain. Cleansed by its carnage.

As the flames consumed the building, she consumed the dieing. Mortal blood flowing down her parched throat was immaculate.

When she woke up the following afternoon, guilt caught up with Celia. She forced herself to puke up the blood and flesh of the dead until her stomach felt like it had been turned inside out. Yet she knew her resistance wouldn’t stay this strong for much longer. She would be a slave to a diabolical master.

The dark hunger came back that night and it was worse than before. The taste of the dead the other night seemed to intensify its power. Celia attempted to fight it, and tried to keep herself from committing more heinous acts. In the end it grew too strong, and Celia gave into it completely. So much easier to give in. All the pain went away. There was only sheer pleasure, no need for troublesome thoughts or feelings. It put her in such a daze that she barely remembered sneaking into the orphanage where she was raised. The squealing of the children before the smoke snuffed out the air in their lungs was a sadist’s symphony.

The years, decades, and centuries swirled by quickly in a haze of fire, blood and ecstasy. She burned down crack houses and fed on the numb blood of the dead junkies. Brothels were the scenes of firery orgies.

But her frail body could no longer contain the dark hunger that fueled it. It began to crumble into ash and charred chunks. The slightest of touch blew her flesh away like soot. Then she found him, young and strong, laying under the covers of his bed. Safe and secure. Something rose up inside her, spilling out of every crack and hole in her decrepit body. Tendrils of flames surrounded the boy like serpents. Blankets erupted into turbulent waves of fire. His body convulsed and his screams pierced like arrows until the smoke filled his lungs.

As his flesh boiled, the dark hunger slipped away from Celia, lingering for a moment like a departing lover, before she crumbled into a pile of ash.

The End.

Why Damn you? Why!?

Funny and crazy man using a computer


After reading Prophecy Six’s blog post about why she writes (read it here) I pondered my own reasons. I mean I’m a *gasp* 40+ year old man who has a wife and a two year old running amuck as well as another baby  on the way. On top of that I got a mortgage payment now.

Surely, I should drop the writing and settle into middle age with no greater amibitions or dreams than binge watching Netflix and bitchin’ about the latest football game or election results.

But fuck all that.

The main reason I write today is very similar to the reason I started writing in the first place, to entertain myself and delve into the depths of imagination. I grew up in a boring ass middle of nowhere area where there were few kids my own age and I tended to be ‘shy’ or as the hipsters like to call it ‘introverted’. I never considered myself either and still don’t give a good goddamn about such terms. Regardless, I spent a lot of time creating adventures with action figures in my sandbox out in the old storage shed my parents had in the backyard. Those were my most treasured days, and I look back at them fondly. It allowed me to escape the tedium of my surroundings and I surrounded myself with characters that were vivid and entertaining.

As I got older I began to draw and write stories very much based on similar adventure ideas and was influenced by the fantasy books and movies I saw back in the 1980’s. People like Tolkien, Moorcock, and Alexander fed my imagination. During my adolescence writing allowed me to escape a life of bullies and teachers/parents. In my writing I could overcome the threats and have exciting experiences that were far beyond the banality of growing up in the rural community of my childhood. I had always wanted to get out of there, but as a teenager I lack the means to do so. Writing, and reading, allowed me to get away from it and create my own world and fate. It was a safe place and realm that had limitless possibilities to explore without being under the dominion of parents or school. A place where I was in control.

After I graduated from high school I went off to college a few hours from my child hood home. That’s a time and place which really helped me develop my critical thinking and creativity. I began to create art and write to explore esoteric ideas such as surrealism and dream symbolism as well as get drawn into the idea of automatic writing a la Kerouac and the other Beat writers.  I also got more into the writings and ideas of writers like H.P. Lovecraft and his comrades such as Clark Ashton Smith. The whole idea  of the pulp/weird fiction really appealed to me and had a great influence on my writing at the time. I think in part because the writers themselves were not part of the upper echelon of the literary world, and were delving into ideas that dealt with madness, sorcery, and antediluvian gods which fascinated me. The idea that mankind was nothing more than a mote of dust in the eye of the universe was one of profound interest to me. During this time writing was not an escape from reality, so much as an instrument to explore the possibilities of creativity. It was time surrounded by supportive and encouraging peers that shared my zest for the Arts and is a time that I cherish.

Now that I’m part of the daily capitalistic rat race, writing and making art is still partially an escape like it was in my childhood. Instead of escaping the tedium and the bullies, it allows me to escape the daily bullshit of work and the current social-political malstorm. It is my favorite form of entertainment, a far cry from TV or Netflix/Hulu. A big part of the appeal these days is the act of creation, creating a world that isn’t as fucked up as our own and filling it with characters that I find fascinating and situations that pique my interest.

In a lot of ways I write for myself. I’m not driven by the need to get a book deal or self publish. Those may be secondary goals once something is polished, but if I were never to get a traditional publisher to sign me I would not feel like I was a failure. If only a handful of people read my stuff or download an ebook I would not regret it.

The only thing I would regret or feel was a failure would be if I gave up on writing or sketching/drawing. If I ignored or repressed the ideas that fill my imagination. The amount of time I have for such expeditions of the imagination are not as plentiful these days, which I don’t regret, but still appreciate and make use of them to the fullest extent I can. And I do not see that ever changing.


The Last Exit (A flash fiction story)

The Last Exit


Kevin Hurtack

Copyright 2016


I never expected to meet a beauty like her while scrounging around town for supplies. I found her in what used to be a rich folks’ neighborhood. She was slate blue and had curves that would’ve put Marilyn Monroe to shame. Finding a car was rare, but a 1966 Ford Mustang in cherry condition was manna from Heaven.


Maybe the car was God’s way of apologizing for making my life shit. All those countless days I’d spent barricaded in that dank mountain cabin with only canned cat food for my meals.

After I hot-wired her she roared like a grizzly bear waking up from hibernation. I lit a cigarette and buckled up. As I threw her into gear I caught a glimpse of my gaunt face in the rear view mirror. My toothy grin seemed out of place, I couldn’t recall the last time I’d felt happiness.

With a full tank of gas and a V8 under the hood, I could get outta here. Head up to Denver, things had to be better there. At least that’s what my girl had said on the phone before the cell phones and land lines went dead months ago.

I stomped on the gas pedal and flew past the vacant houses wrapped with yellow caution tape. I raced by the boarded-up buildings plastered with quarantine signs. The Mustang wove through the abandoned barricades and checkpoints with ease. Her engine rumbled as I drove around the National Guards’ trucks that lay scattered and tipped over like discarded toys.


I headed for the highway, confident that I’d finally caught a break, until a scurrying sound came from the backseat.

My mind reeled in terror when I saw it in the rear view mirror. The fiend’s kidney bean shaped body wasn’t any bigger than a Chihuahua and it crept on spider-like legs. It stared at me with its bulbous black eyes that gleamed with a malicious intelligence that was beyond my understanding. Worst of all was the fiend’s cavernous mouth that was filled with a double row of serrated teeth.

I death-gripped the steering wheel and screamed. After countless days of trying to avoid them, I’d ended up with one as a stow away. I guess God had a sick sense of humor.

The fiend crouched like a cat ready to pounce. I tried to remember what the government had said to do in case of an attack. My muddled memory didn’t offer any answers. My heart pounded in my ears and sweat trickled down my face.

An ear-piercing screech erupted from the fiend as it leapt. I ducked. It landed on the back of my head with the force of a baseball bat. Splotches floated in my vision and my head swam. I struggled to keep the car under control.

The fiend wrapped its legs around my head, and the tiny barbs that covered them burrowed into me like ticks on a hound. Then the fiend wretched, like a cat hacking up a fur ball, and spewed lime-green vomit all over my head.

It reeked like rotted fish guts and I almost upchucked myself. My eyes watered and my nose burned. I wiped my face off and yanked on its legs, but it was like trying to uproot a tree. The fiend hissed like a feral cat and tightened its grip.

My heart pounded like a bass drum and my entire body trembled. My vomit covered head felt numb as did the hand I’d used to wipe my face. Was I poisoned? I remembered a website said the vomit paralyzed people. But there were a lot of rumors online during the early days of the infestation. Maybe that’s why the government shut the internet down.

Whether it was dumb luck or instinct, I jerked the wheel and crashed into a light pole. The crunching metal and shattering glass accompanied the bone-jarring collision. Oblivion flooded my vision.

I woke up with my head on the steering wheel and jabbing pain in my ribs. I was alive, and the fiend was gone. The Chihuahua sized hole in the windshield suggested that it had been ejected violently during the crash.

Laughter sputtered from my lips as I realized I’d avoided getting my brain sucked out by the fiend. A lot of folks hadn’t been as lucky as me thanks to the government messing with that meteor. I didn’t know why I was still alive, but I wasn’t gonna waste my second chance.

Steam billowed from the Mustang’s crumbled hood. A pity to wreck her, but she had saved me. I fumbled with the seat-belt and flung the door open. Nothing was on the tree-lined highway. The car’s flickering headlights revealed the fiend’s splattered carcass a few feet away.

I got out and spit at it. “Goddamn brain-sucking cockroach.”

My triumph was cut short by their screeching. The headlights illuminated more fiends in the trees. The noise of the crash must have caught their attention.

A half dozen of them circled the Mustang and hissed like alley cats. I tore off a shirt sleeve and ran to the end of the car. A fiend jumped onto the hood. I removed the gas cap and shoved the sleeve inside. I pulled out my lighter. They drew closer. I lit the sleeve.

Adrenaline fueled my frantic flight. The screeching of the pursuing fiends filled my ears. The bone rattling explosion threw me to the ground. Scorching heat swept overhead. Debris rained down.

I looked up. The car was a twisted hunk of scorched metal. The trees were torches. Sizzling carcasses littered the asphalt. I howled with laughter. My tears washed my soot-covered face. 

I staggered passed a sign that marked the last exit out of town. I ignored the numbness seeping into my limbs. Maybe it was just shock or perhaps the fiend was venomous after all. Either way, I’d made it out of town and that was more than most had managed.

                                                                  The End.

Say my name … Say It!





Both as a reader and a writer I think that the names of characters can really make or break them. Names seem pretty simple at first glance, but honestly its something that can take a lot of time to come up with a name that fits a character. Personally, when I start writing a story I rarely keep the original name that I come up with for a character. I want something that isn’t generic but isn’t so wildly weird that no one can pronounce it or even I can’t spell right half the time.

One thing that bugs me as a reader about names is in particular in fantasy where the characters have similiar sounding names. One fault I find with Tolkein’s work is that he often did this, a father would have a name and his son’s name would simply have a few letters changed or added on. Now, before you get out your soap box and start preaching to me, I know that Tolkein was fixated on developing a language/culture and studied linguistics and yada yada yada. That’s all well and good, but what’s the excuse for more contemporary writers out there that do the same? I don’t know, I just find it off putting when everyone has similiar sounding names. Seriously, how often do you run into that every day? So, why does everyone in elf-land gotta be that way? It happens in other genres, but I find it mostly in fantasy, which isn’t a knock against the genre – just a bit of a pet peeve is all.

Some times a character’s name doesn’t have to be overly complicated. In fact some of the great villians of all time, in my opinion, have ridiculously simple names. Stephen King’s notorious monster/villian called It. Sweet baby Jesus, that character is scary as shit yet the name is simple. The name fits the character well if you’ve read the book or suffered through the godawful movie.

Another would be The Thing from John Carpenter’s movie of the same title. It’s simple  and primordial and abstract, much like fear the characters experience themselves. The Thing represents the unknown and the undescribable. The very basics of fear itself. The name The Thing resonates with me because of those reasons.

Despite what I said about Tolkein before, he does have some great names in the Lord of the Rings books. In particular Gandalf and Strider and etc. A lot of the characters feel familiar yet ancient like something from myths of our collective past, which was part of Tolkein’s goal.

A good name fits the time period and culture that the story is set in. Buffy is a totally ridiuclous name for a vampire slayer but when you set that story in the ‘valley’ of California and make said slayer a former high school cheerleader then it does work. The name Buffy woudln’t work if it were a fantasy story set in the Roman empire. A good name is all about the context of the story.

So, what about you? Are there some names that really threw you out of the story you read and left you wondering what the author was smoking when she came up with the name? Or are there names that still resonate with  you after reading a story/novel? Feel free to share in the comments below.



Free Ebook – A Lurker Among The Dead

You can now get a copy of my short story A Lurker Among The Dead for free in ebook format from Barnes and Noble, iTunes, and a few other places online. I have posted the links below. If you enjoy the story, I really appreciate it if you review it where you bought it. Thanks and enjoy.

Missing Corpses.  A stranger lurking outside the morgue.  Bizarre symbols scrawled in blood.

The remote mining town of Silvervalle has seen its share of trouble, but no one ever imagined a body snatcher would come to the Colorado territory. It’s up to the hard-nosed Civil War veteran Sheriff Sean Callahan and the steadfast Deputy Washington to sort through the macabre clues.

Who is the body snatcher? What is his motive for these ghastly crimes? Through the dusty streets and frigid Rocky mountains, Sheriff Callahan and Deputy Washington will stop at nothing to find their man.  But will the trail of clues lead them to the body snatcher or will he slip away like a fleeting shadow?

A Lurker Among The Dead is the first story in a planned series of tales featuring Sean Callahan, the sheriff of  Raven County, Colorado.





The End Is Nigh?



A lot of people talk a lot (perhaps too much) about hooking your reader/viewer very early on in your story so that they’re invested enough to read the whole damn thing. But what about the ending? I think the most disppointing thing is to be emotionally invested in a story only to have it drop the ball at the end. I’m not a fan of happily ever after endings to horror/dark fantasy stories. Save that syrupy goodness for romantic comedies. When it comes to horror/dark fantasy I prefer an ending that isn’t so happy. Whether its an ending where ‘evil’ wins the day or the protagonist pays a heavy price for surviving is what I like.

Stephen King’s early work did this very well, especially Pet Semetary and the novellas in Five Past Midnight. HP Lovecraft’s writings never had a happy ending, the majority of his characters went bat crap crazy.

I think an ending that isn’t all sunshine and bunny rabbits reinforces the terror and horror of the evil. It reminds us that the ideas we have about reality and the control we believe we have over our lives are merely illusions. That we are not superior or important. That we are not at the top of the cosmic food chain. When evil wins in a piece of fiction it is more powerful and impactful to me than the ‘good’ guy winning, again. Evil winning in the end is unsettling and terrifying. But evil winning at the end can become a cliche. Hollywood is to thank for this fact. I don’t know how many slasher flicks I’ve seen where the crazed killer is supposedly killed off at the end by the twiggy damsel in distress, only to rise up from his grave or ‘mysteriously’ not be found when the authorities arrive on the scene.

One of my favorite endings in movies is John Carpenter’s The Thing. The ending essentially is two characters left alive in the ruins of their research base in Antartica. Both are exhausted and paranoid that the other is actually The Thing. They have no way out. There’s no escape. There’s no help coming around the corner. It’s an ambigous ending and its unsettling. My imagination tends wonder about the possibilities of what could happen to them. I’m not just a passive viewer in that ending, it engages my curisoity and imagination. I love that kind of ending, too. I don’t need the movie to hold my hand and explain everything out to me every time.

In a lot of ways, endings are just as important as hooking the reader in the begining. A well written ending can stick with me for a long time and encourage me to return to read/view more of that person’s work.