Ethan Howard



TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED is a compilation of fourteen short stories dealing with the strange, the eerie and the macabre.

Introduction to the Writer

If you are reading this book, it means like me, you share a taste for the strange and the bizarre. Don’t look that way, this is not a personality flaw or an indictment on your sanity. And if it is considered as such by smarter people than me, then do not worry, you are in good company.

I should take some time and tell how I ended up writing and why I chose this particular genre as my first attempt at it. I grew up in the seventies during a time where there were only three main television stations (NBC, ABC, & CBS) and three UHF channels (17, 29, & 48) on the East Coast. There was no cable and VCRs had not been introduced to mainstream America. Cartoons were mostly limited to Saturday mornings. So what was a young boy to do? Read, that’s what. I am thankful to this day, for my parents instilling the passion for reading into myself and my siblings. The house was lined with shelves and filled with every type of book out there. My parents spent a considerable amount of time discussing stories over dinner and their enthusiasm was contagious. When the time came where I was competent enough to handle the complexities of a novel, all my parents had to do was point me in the direction of one of those shelves and say, “Enjoy.”

The first book I grabbed was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. I was riveted. I devoured the story in the same manner as I attacked a barbecued steak in those days. I wanted to be in Wonderland. I wanted Alice to be my friend and introduce me to the Mad Hatter and the Cheshire cat. When I sat in my wooded backyard, I pretended the White Rabbit and all the characters were out there with me. My imagination now had liftoff.

I did not stop there with Lewis Carroll. It was not long before I was at the dinner table involved in conversations about H.G. Wells, Henry James, Washington Irving and many others. By the time I was in the third grade, I had read every book that I could reach in the house. Oh, and for those wondering, I did manage to find time to play outside and have friends!

I mentioned earlier that my parents were the biggest factor in me becoming an avid reader by having the books in the house. My grandmother (on my mother’s side) was Native American and she, along with my mother, filled the rest of us with ghost stories and tales of the supernatural in our family. Now, my parents raised us Catholic so you would think there was a minor conflict of interest. I assure you there was not. My mind was open (even at such a young age) to both schools of thinking. I had no idea what was real or just superstition. I admit to this day, I still do not. It was just fascinating to me to be so close to things that were indeed stranger than fiction. TV was a help to feeding my appetite for the unusual and downright weird. The reruns of Twilight Zone were a huge help in that department. And it was later that I learned that more than a third of those stories were written by the master himself, Richard Matheson. There was also Night Gallery with its creepy music to terrorize and titillate me to have many a sleepless night clutching the covers. Friday night brought Kolchak, The Night Stalker into my home. On Saturday afternoons, I had Dr. Shock, the host of horror movies, and later that day I could look forward to investigations into the paranormal from Leonard Nimoy’s In Search Of.  Around this same time, my father brought me comics to read and I was thrilled by the works of Marvel and DC.

Time passed. I grew older and other things like what I was going to do with the rest of my life began to take on importance. As much as I would want to live like Thoreau, it is not practical in this day and age. When college beckoned, there was no ambiguity on what my major would be. English. Throughout those years, living on campus, the fraternity life, and the parties, I maintained that overactive imagination. I thought of writing back then, but a self-inventory revealed I was too unsettled and far too distracted.

After graduation, I moved to the West Coast and began a career of educating young adults on literature and the truths to be found in it. Maturity (at least I like to think) increased and my career took a turn towards the scientific study of mental behaviors as I became a Mental Health Clinician. Though I was unlicensed, I had the opportunity to work for and with terrific psychiatrists and nurses who guided me through years of a fascinating profession. My time spent in that environment taught me the inner workings of the human mind. It also showed me the fine line separating sanity from insanity.

It was during this period that I came up with the idea for Catherine Shelby’s character in Room with a View. Time continued to pass and I kept on reading and enjoying life. I thought I was settled enough, and I was all set to write, until tragedy struck the nation. That was September 11, 2001. Writing was put on hold as I felt I had to do more to give back to my country. Despite being a little older than most, I enlisted into the military. After basic training, I was brought into the NSW (Naval Special Warfare) community and provided support for our special forces. After I racked up nearly four years of Active Duty time, with most of it in the Middle East, I came back home and decided to remain in the Reserves.

During this time my mother had passed away. I could write a thousand pages on how much she meant to me, but for the sake of brevity, just know that a day has not gone by since October 2006 that she does not enter my mind at least once. Now that I was home again, I asked the question many returning warriors ask themselves: What’s next? I decided to survey what I had in my life. A very nice, quaint place in Southern California, money in the bank, and good health. So what was missing? (Dr. Sam Rutherford asked himself that very question in The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth.) A family. I had been a bachelor and quite comfortable with the title until Elizabeth came along with other ideas. This was a very simple and common tale. We met, fell in love, and got married. I returned to the Mental Health profession and settled into life as a married man. I spent many a night keeping my wife up with conversations about my grandmother’s supernatural stories, the existence of aliens, or any other theory my mind would come up with.

One night, she asked with such an overactive imagination, how come I have not committed anything to paper. I could not think of a good reason, so I just went into the study and started typing. This is my first venture into writing and I must tell you if I had known it would be this enjoyable, I would have done it years ago. Now that I have gotten a taste of it, I am going to keep writing.

There are many other projects I have outlined and I plan to get to all of them. Some of them I think are quite exciting. The beauty of this my friends, is that it does not matter if one person or one million reads your story. One should keep writing if is in your blood. There is no pressure. For me, this is truly a labor of love. A culmination of thoughts and ideas from decades of amazing influences.

Come in and take a glimpse into the mind of a man who is still a boy. Please, do not be shy, I am happy to share it with you.

Peace to all… ---EH