Madison-Park News (MI)
Aspiring author takes a stab at horror
Local hopes short story collection will lead to writing career
ANDY KOZLOWSKI C & G Staff Writer
Published: August 18, 2010
MADISON HEIGHTS - Mermaids and mutants. Vengeful spirits and the walking dead. A possessed car that eats souls. A murderous reflection in the mirror. All these and more populate the pages of "The Fear Within," a collection of 25 short stories - mostly horror, with sci-fi thrown in for good measure - written by a lifelong Madison Heights resident and Lamphere High '87 grad by the penname of Shelby Patrick.
Still, she's not so buddy-buddy with the creatures that go bump in the night.
"People swear my house is haunted," Patrick said. "I'm not sure if I believe them, but I did see something once that I'll never forget. I was home alone that night and someone was in my hallway. It was a woman - she ran down the hall and disappeared.
I'll never forget that moment.
I'm 40 years old now and won't survive sitting in my house at night alone without every single light on." Patrick, who is self-employed part-time delivering newspapers in Royal Oak, Troy and Clawson, has had aspirations of becoming a fulltime author since high school.
" (My family) never really thought I'd amount to much, so I started writing to prove I could do something productive with my life," she said.
Since then, she's penned many a short story, novel and article, even an e-book on Web design. Several short stories were successfully published, and subsequently revised and added to "The Fear Within." An article on karate also saw print.
Of special note, though, are two self-published creative writing exercise books, "Dark Recesses of the Mind," which doles out assignments on a monthly basis, and "Forbidden Knowledge," which mines the Ten Commandments and Seven Deadly Sins for inspiration.
"I had heard about lulu.com and decided to try my hand at selfpublishing," Patrick said. "It was very easy to do and free of charge.
You basically upload files to their server and they publish the book for you. The only bad thing was the price for proofs and the retail price of the book would be a bit high." Her good experience with the two creative writing books encouraged her to keep at it.
"My editor recommended Createspace for my short story collection," Patrick said. "It was a little cheaper, but just as easy to do." For her next novel, "When Angels Sing" - a thriller previewed in "The Fear Within" - Patrick plans to self-publish if a publisher cannot be found.
But the first step is writing, and before one can write, one must read.
Patrick counts among her influences such masters of horror as Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Stephen King and Dean Koontz, but these days it's all about thriller/ suspense authors such as Kay Hooper, Heather Graham and Tami Hoag.
"Every story should have good characterization, a strong plot and well-written descriptions, but what sets the horror/ thriller story apart from the rest is the element of suspense," Patrick said. "It needs to keep the reader guessing and on the edge of their seats. It should open with a strong beginning and close with a believable ending. Don't disappoint the readers, or they might not come back.
"I prefer to write psychological horror, the kind that can get under your skin and hold you hostage until it's ready to let you go," she added.
"My stories rely on the fear that we all hold inside and must face sooner or later, whether it's the dark, losing a loved one, or the spider crawling up your arm. Sometimes it can even be a race for survival that gives us strength to see it through." Patrick's approach to writing can be as unpredictable as her characters'adventures.
"I don't outline before I write a story. It comes to me as I write," she said. "I think of it as a movie I'm seeing for the first time. Even I don't know how my stories will end until I'm ready to write the ending." As for what those stories are, the subject matter varies widely in "The Fear Within." Phone calls from the dead; a cell phone virus that turns infected people into homicidal maniacs; an old western town teeming with the undead; a mutated dog wreaking havoc on a space station; a supercomputer gone on a killing spree. The list goes on and on.
"It is great fun to read her stories because she does a good job of making sure that the reader doesn't have time to slow down and that the pages keep turning," said Rich Buchko, the book's editor. "She obviously has this dark side to her and it comes out in her writing, and of course she has a great imagination, which she uses to bring fresh angles to her stories." Though she's a self-proclaimed "scaredy-cat," dreading everything from spiders and water to heights and hospitals, the force powering Patrick's work is an appreciation for the value of fear.
"It makes us feel alive," Patrick said. "People who say they fear nothing are lying to themselves. Everyone needs to have some kind of fear, whether it's a small one or much larger. Our fears protect us and sometimes stop us from doing crazy things. Without fear, we might as well be mindless zombies wandering the Earth." To sample Shelby Patrick's work for yourself, visit her website at http://%20www.shelbypatrick.com/.
You can reach Staff Writer Andy Kozlowski at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (586) 279-1104.
Copyright, 2010, Madison-Park News (MI), All Rights Reserved.