Five Things That Inspire My Writing
By: S.F. Barkley
Some people grow up always knowing that they wanted to be a writer. They loved writing essays in school, maybe got their college degree in English, or perhaps they even wrote their first novel before ever finishing grade school. That, however, wasn’t me. I had no idea that I wanted to be a writer until, well, I started writing. To explain what gave me the push to first put the pen to paper (or more realistically, my finger to the keyboard), I’ve narrowed it down to the five main things that inspire my writing.
- My Love for All Things Creepy
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been drawn to the paranormal. Every eerie sound I heard in my house as a child, every chill down my spine, I always believed in ghosts. It’s no surprise that my favorite books growing up were Goosebumps by R. L. Stine. My interest in the paranormal only grew the older I got. I love going on ghost tours of old cities, visiting supposedly haunted places (big fan of Gettysburg), and hearing the fascinating histories of buildings and places.
- My Experiences as a Cop
I was a cop for nearly three years. During that time, I discovered an underground tunnel system, a secret room behind a fireplace, and was dispatched to an abandoned building for 911 hang up calls- all while on the job. First responders commonly find themselves in creepy situations, especially those who work the night shift. All of my experiences left me wondering, “What if…”
- My Personal Life
One of the most famous pieces of advice for writers is to “Write what you know.” I know law enforcement, but there’s a lot more to a story than just the main character’s career. I constantly draw on my personal life’s experiences to help build the world and characters in my stories. For example, I grew up in a small town in Western Pennsylvania, so the fictional town I created was in Western Pennsylvania and inspired by the towns that I knew. There are pieces of my life sprinkled throughout my stories.
- Reddit r/NoSleep
My first attempt at writing was on Reddit’s subreddit r/NoSleep, which is a forum for realistic horror stories told from first-person perspective. My first short story was about finding dead space in my house, but it only received about 60 upvotes, deeming it not very popular. I still had a lot of fun writing the story and reading the responses though, so I wrote a second short story series. This second series was about being a rookie cop and getting dispatched repeatedly to an abandoned house for 911 hang up calls. In a blink of an eye, the story blew up. It was read over 100,000 times, upvoted by over 5,000 readers, and eventually went on to win Story of the Month in August 2018, having competed with nearly 4,000 other short stories.
Once I received such an outpour of positive feedback, I was inspired to turn the short series into a novel, and that’s how Patch Lane was created.
There are actually two ways that wine helps inspire my writing. First, it’s no secret that alcohol loosens us up and gets the creative juices flowing. My writing routine involves sitting in my wine/writing room, pouring myself a large glass, and turning on some soft music. Second, by making such a cozy and zen writing setting, I give myself something to look forward to. I don’t allow myself to sip on wine until I’ve sat down with my laptop in hand.
Publication Date: October 22, 2019
Sarah Hastings is a rookie cop who works the night shift in Amber Forest, a small rural town nestled in the Western Pennsylvania mountains. After repeatedly responding to an abandoned and allegedly haunted farmhouse for 911 hang up calls, she discovers a dead body in a secret room. The forensic investigators determine that the body has only been dead for three to four days, but the case takes an unexpected turn when Sarah runs the victim’s fingerprints and finds that her Jane Doe actually died 20 years ago.
The murder investigation is complicated with a sloppy autopsy and delayed forensic reports. When the US Marshals and FBI join the case, Sarah realizes that she is caught in a web of jurisdictional politics that seem to care less about the victim and are more concerned with a larger confidential case. Sarah soon realizes that she may be closer to the victim than she thought and finds herself drawn deeper into the case, threatening not just her career, but her life.
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The house was in total disrepair. The exterior had white wooden siding with loosely attached, rotting black shutters. The moonlight highlighted the chipping paint, making the shutters appear two-toned. The old brick chimney was pulling away from the side of the house, and small trees were growing on the lower roof. There were no signs of life inside—no lights, no sound, not even a car parked on the property. It was the only house on the lane, so I deduced this was once a running farm. This must have been the original farmhouse. I slowly made my way around the house, trudging through the overgrown grass, to check the perimeter. With no evidence of life or habitation, I was beginning to question if Dispatch had gotten the address wrong. I got on the radio. “1034 to Dispatch.”
“Dispatch, go ahead.”
“I’m at 52 Patch Lane. Can you confirm this is the address?”
“Stand by.” After about a minute, Dispatch got back on the air. “1034, yes, that’s the correct address. Do you need backup?”
“Negative. It appears no one is home, but I’ll update.”
At this point, I knocked on the front door and announced myself. “Officer Hastings, Amber Forest Police Department!” No answer. All of the windows were closed, so I tried the front door. Locked. I didn’t have any extenuating circumstances that would allow a warrantless entry, so all I could do was leave. There wasn’t even enough for me to write a police report.
“1034 to Dispatch,” I radioed again.
“Dispatch, go ahead.”
“It looks like this house is abandoned. I think the 911 hang up might have been some crossed telephone wires. Clear me from the call with no report.”
I began driving back down the gravel lane when another wave of chills shot through me. I hit my brakes and glanced in my rearview mirror. My brake lights flooded the house in red, and for a split moment I thought I saw someone standing in the window watching me leave. I blinked, and the figure vanished. My intuition had kept me alive this far, but I knew Chief Fox would rip me a new one if I tried to enter that house based on my intuition and faintly seeing shadows. I took a deep breath and convinced my foot to ease off of the brake and back on the gas.
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About the Author
S.F. Barkley is a former police officer who uses her law enforcement knowledge and experience along with her love for all things creepy to create short stories and novels. She had several eerie experiences as a cop, including having discovered secret underground tunnels and responding to 911 hang up calls to an abandoned industrial building. She has published short horror stories in various anthologies and is publishing her debut mystery novel, Patch Lane, in October 2019. She was raised in Western Pennsylvania and currently resides in Maryland with her husband and their rescue pup.
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