Entertainment » Vol. 6

Shrewsbury Author Dennis Cummings

Dennis Cummings in front of Steven King's house

Dennis Cummings lives in a world where mutated insects descend and infect entire townships, where vampyres live under the floors of high schools and haunted amusement parks terrorize any who dare to tread on the tainted carnie grounds. But don’t ask him to leave this place – he feels pretty comfortable there.

“I began writing about 15 years ago,” Cummings, 56, said in a recent interview. “I sat down at my word processor and wrote a story called ‘Baca.’ It was about a Werewolf in Grafton. It was also absolute crap.”

Cummings continued to write, however, and came to view writing as a source of serenity. He took inspiration from Stephen King’s works, poured over instructional books on the craft of writing and eventually sold his first story, “Sarah’s Escape” ~ an eerie piece in which a vampyre seduces an emotionally tormented girl with promises of protection from pain ~ to Arkansas’s BloodReams magazine. This success came after numerous rejection letters. Needless to say, Cummings framed the acceptance letter.

“’Sarah’s Escape’ taught me two things,” he said. “First, that I could be somewhat successful at writing fiction and secondly, that rejections don’t mean your writing isn’t any good. It just means you haven’t found the right editor yet.”

In his home, a house built in the 1830s that is most likely rife with spirits, Cummings has fashioned himself a writing room, where that first acceptance letter is hung. Bookshelves are packed to the brim with publications of both well-known and up-and-coming horror writers, many of whom Cummings has befriended. A large bulletin board dutifully holds several plot notes, pictures and maps to aid and inspire Cummings as he writes.

“I also keep little knick-knacks in my writing room,” Cummings said. “Each one is a reminder of either a creature or main character of each story I’ve sold. My home is where my passions live, where they come alive, where they are allowed to be themselves.”

This horror writer, despite his obvious ability to face the things that go bump in the night, is not completely impervious to fright. Even as Cummings considers the many scenarios his imagination has created, he admits that one real life event scared him deeply. Recently, his beloved granddaughter and “biggest fan,” Kaitlyn, was diagnosed with Precursor B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Cummings said that the road has been rough, but he and Kaitlyn’s parents are hopeful.

“Even though the prognosis is positive, it has been a horror show for her, her parents, all of us,” he said. “But we’re keeping very positive. No little kid deserves this. They’ve done nothing wrong.”

Cummings’ granddaughter might be a little too young for her grandfather’s writing, but she shows her love in other ways, he said. This year, when Cummings’ Beatle tribute band, Beatles for Sale, performed in Worcester’s Elm Park concert series, she was there to cheer for him and the rest of the “Beatles.”
When not working or spending time with family, Cummings plays the rhythm guitar and sings the John Lennon parts in two tribute bands. Despite his daughters’ shared disbelief, Cummings said that he never gets tired of playing the same songs over and over again.

With his family close by, and with his music and his home of spookiness, Cummings plans to continue writing. His short story “Written in the Stars” will be featured in an anthology called Terrible Beauty/Fearful Symmetry and he is currently shopping around his novel, Nesters.

“Nesters takes place in my fictional town of Washington Mills, located between Shrewsbury and Grafton,” revealed Cummings. “It’s a horrifying story of a small New England town and its struggle against a new and deadly breed of insect.”

Let’s hope that book stays in the fiction section.

For more information on Cummings and his various projects, both literary and musical, go to
www.myspace.com/danzmacab
www.beatlesforsale.net
www.myspace.com/beatlesforsalebeatletribute

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