House of Flies and Writing – Guest Post by Stephen Helmes

I never thought of myself as a writer. I never thought I would enjoy it the way that I do today. Like that little boy, Mikey, in the old cereal commercials, I tried it, and as soon as the flavor hit me, I started gobbling it down.

Note: This giest post was originally published on The News in Books on May 13, 2014.

firefighters, wikipedia

firefighters, wikipedia

When I was in the third grade, our teacher, Miss Phillips, asked the class what they wanted to be when they grew up. I pondered on all the choices as the other kids spilled their colorful answers of doctors, nurses, firemen, truck drivers, and police officers. It was a question that I hadn’t taken to heart at that point of my life, so I had to come up with an answer quick, before the question’s fuse burned down to me.

The blond boy sitting in the row to my left, about three seats behind me answered, “I want to be a rock star.”

At that point, all the other ideas faded and went to Answer Heaven. I instantly saw myself standing under bright lights, hair over my shoulders, a guitar in my hands, and screaming girls at my feet. If someone looked over at my desk at that moment, I bet I was grinning like a pumpkin.

Stephen Helmes playing guitar,

Stephen Helmes playing guitar,

When the fuse burned down to me I shouted, “I want to be a rock star too!”

There were no cheers, no woohoos and no one turned to asked me for an autograph. The kid behind me gave his answer, and the world continued to turn without a glitch or even a tingle from my fabulous discovery. That didn’t matter though. I knew from that moment what I wanted and the seed started to grow as well as my hair.

I started playing guitar when I was ten and didn’t play my first live show with a rock band until I was twenty-one and old enough to get into the club.

The first show was terrible. My amp wasn’t grounded properly and every time I got within two inches of the mike, a blue spark would shoot out and connect with my upper lip. After the first song, my lips were numb, my face was tingling, and my vocals came out sounding like Buckwheat. Our rhythm guitarist was nervous and drank himself into a new comfort zone before we hit the stage, so he was missing notes and occasionally moving his guitar too close to the straight microphone stand, creating an out of tune slide effect. At the end of our set, the announcer walked onto stage and said to the stunned crowd, “Well, let’s give ’em a hand anyway.”

House of Flies,

House of Flies,

In 1993, I met drummer Connie Caldwell. Together, we created the band we are still proud to be a part of today, House of Flies. I couldn’t begin to tell you how many shows we have played in the last two decades; hundreds easily, maybe a thousand, I don’t know. We have played shows where only two people showed and we have played theaters with hundreds of seats filled and the audience chanting. House of Flies has a cameo appearance in the horror film Chainsaw Cheerleaders. We have played live for the show Star Search and won a recording deal and television appearance.

Even though our band is not known worldwide, and I never expect to hear our names mentioned in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I consider our little rock group very successful.

The band has been the center of my attention for the past twenty-one years, but in 2001 another piece of my personal puzzle entered into the equation.

It was a cold winter’s night, a work night for me. My normal routine was to get up at five-thirty in the morning and start getting ready for the long day that awaited me. This particular morning I had no need for an alarm clock. I woke at 5 a.m. in a cool bedroom. Sweating and scared senseless, my eyes were darting around the dark room.

In the dream, I had been walking through a city park on an extremely cold night. I’m not sure what time it was, but the big city was completely deserted, no one around except me.

Forsyth Park Fountain, wikimedia commons

Forsyth Park Fountain, wikimedia commons

I saw a big fountain in the center of the park. On any normal day, perhaps a warm, sunny spring afternoon, this fountain would be beautiful, water flowing from its overfilled, giant-cup-formed top to its wide round pool at the bottom, where people might sit around its concrete base and look at the water, or even toss a penny for a wish. But this night, there were no spring flowers and no sunshine, only the dim glow of yellow street lamps shining down on the frozen water of the fountain. But there was something else, something unusual that drew me in for a closer look.

Draped over the side of the pool, I saw a bright red jacket that someone apparently had left by accident. I walked over for a closer look and that’s when I saw something else. Under the clear, thick ice, there was the body of a black man, wearing what I could barely make out to be a football jersey with large white numbers. He was buried under the ice! Then I saw another body next to his, an old woman, then another, and another. This fountain’s pool was filled with bodies, twenty, thirty, or more, like frozen fish in a bucket!

That’s when I felt its presence. I can’t tell you what it was. I looked around and saw nothing but the surrounding trees and the lonely yellowish glow of the sidewalk under the street lamps. But there was something very real and very evil. I could feel it approaching, getting closer and closer.

I started running. From what, I still didn’t know, but it was right behind me. I could feel it gaining on me. I could feel the hot breath breathing down my back as I ran fast as I could to the distant, crowded lobby of a nearby hotel.

The dream brought me up in the sweat soaked sheets like a clown popping up at the end of “Pop Goes the Weasel.”

Nightly VisitsThat nightmare put me on track to where I am today. I wrote the dream down while it was still fresh in my mind, and gradually, over time, added to it. Today that nightmare is the first story in my book, Nightly Visits, and it’s called “Glasswalker.”

Being a horror fan from a very young age, I found myself enjoying this new found hobby as much as I enjoyed playing music but in a totally different way.

I had other nightmares, and odd dreams, and made it a habit of writing them all down when I woke so they wouldn’t be forgotten.

I didn’t know what would happen to these stories. I hadn’t planned to publish them because I didn’t think I was good enough for that.

I knew that I loved Stephen King movies, but I had never been the reading type.

One afternoon while I was skimming through a bookstore, I found a book by Stephen King, that I had never heard of. The book was called The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. Out of curiosity, I bought the book and read it. I fell in love with this book. Reading this book made me want to write more and more.

I loved the way King worded the story as well. One reason I didn’t consider myself a good writer was because I had read stories that, if a person had just an average vocabulary like mine, they found it hard to understand. King worded his book well, but one didn’t have to have college reading skills to enjoy it.

I began reading Desperation, Bag of Bones, The Shining, The Rage, and so many more of his books. I was hooked.

So here I am today. I’m proud to say that my first book, Nightly Visits, is published and available online around the world, and my second book is under construction right now.

InD'tale Magazine,

InD’tale Magazine,

My first magazine review, from InD’tale Magazine, gave Nightly Visits a four-star rating and compared my writing to Stephen King. I wonder why.

Recommended Articles:
Nightly Visits – a Review

Stephen Helmes Interview – Being a Milkman, a Musician, and a Writer

  1 comment for “House of Flies and Writing – Guest Post by Stephen Helmes

  1. Clay Earl McDaris
    May 25, 2016 at 5:05 am

    Little did I know of your writing ability, i truly enjoyed your Beginning of writing, I was there as i read i was in the dream with you, love your writing, keep up the good work. So glad to have known you back when, well you know Brother. Take care ill be reading more of your novels. Your friend as always Clay.

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