I just signed my first book deal. Holy shit, I just signed my first book deal!

My debut novel, WE ARE MONSTERS, is scheduled to be published by the horror imprint of Samhain in 2015. It was picked up by Don D’Auria, which, in my limited experience, deserves every bit of the respect and adulation he receives in the industry. I can’t wait to work with him.

This is a milestone I’ve been working towards for some time. Just how long exactly, I’m not sure. But I think it started in the first grade, which is when I told my first horror story.

I’ll never forget the feeling. My classmates and I were sitting in a circle on the floor. Not a perfect circle, mind you, more like the shape of a jelly bean. The teacher – God, I wish I could remember her name – was at the helm.

“We’re going to tell a story,” she said. “I’ll start, and when I say, ‘pass,’ the person next to me will continue where I leave off. We’ll go along like this until we get to the end.” And, so, she began, loading us all on to an imaginary bus heading out for a field trip. Her description was a little vague, her voice a tad too chipper, but she put me into the story all the same. Or, my imagination did. It put me on that bus.

Not much had happened by the time the tale made it to the third person in line. There were some silly exchanges, I think we had sung a song. And, by now, I was starting to get the first stirrings of anxiety. I couldn’t wait for my turn. What happened next seemed so obvious, but there were still several kids ahead of me. I was sure someone else would go there first.

As I was to soon learn, however, what I had planned for the story, and what everyone else had planned, were two very different things.

We had just finished waving at a brown cow outside the window, or something equally banal, when my turn finally came. At this point I was squirming as though I needed to pee.

“Okay, okay,” I said, or started with something equally as preemptive. “So, the front tire goes, BLAM!” Right then, my classmates all jerked to attention, I saw the light brighten in their eyes. “The bus begins swerving across the road, the driver pulling the wheel with all his might. But he can’t keep it from crashing into the side rail.” The crooked circle had gone silent, all eyes were on me. “And then the front doors burst open. A man jumps inside. He’s got dark, sweaty hair, with big wild eyes, and he’s wearing a long trench coat,” I think I knew that term, “that he pulls aside to show his sawed off shotgun. ‘Put your hands in the air,’ the crazy man cries, right before placing the barrel…”

“Pass,” my teacher began to say at this point, but it sounded like she had laryngitis. “Pass.”

I spoke over her, “…placing the barrel against the driver’s head and pulling the trigger. Fire blasts from the barrel and the driver’s brains splatter against the window! Big gooey clumps of red and dark green!” Why did I think brain matter was green?

“Pass! Pass!” My teacher was much more animated now. Her voice had grown quite loud. But it hardly competed with the thrilled screams of my classmates, who had all started whooping and hopping up and down. Now we had a story on our hands.

I relinquished the story to the person next to me. I was happy to share it at this point. I knew we had steered it in the right direction. And was pleased with the dark twists that my friends added to it.

I don’t recall ever repeating that same creative exercise in class, however. And I don’t think my teacher ever looked at me the same. But the memory has been imprinted forever on my mind because it was the first time I felt like I may have a special purpose. That telling stories was something that I was meant to do.

This need has only intensified over time. And I’m happy to see that crooked circle from first grade expand. My latest story has been told. Now it’s time to pass it around. I hope you all will enjoy it as much as I have.