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Stroke opens up new career chapter for teacher

7/21/2013 3:30 PM
By Associated Press

MIDDLETOWN, Ind. (AP) — When Scott L. Vannatter talks about the impact of the major stroke he suffered on May 7, 2010, he doesn't mince words.

"That was a life switcher," he said.

But besides the lingering effects of double vision, impaired memory and loss of balance, it also launched him into a new career as a horror writer, one he dreams of turning into a successful full-time endeavor someday. Before the stroke, he had only dabbled at writing.

"The stroke changed my brain, the way I think, a lot," he told The Star Press (http://tspne.ws/1agQ8WU ), reflecting on this new opportunity.

As he spoke, he was in his living room, a place with hundreds of DVDs, VHS tapes and books from the science fiction and horror genres. A chess set sat on a coffee table while his charcoal gray cat, Timika, named after a character from the video game "Oblivion," hid under another. Looking at Vannatter, meanwhile, one did a momentary double-take, observing half the right lens of his glasses blocked by a Magic: The Gathering trading card he had scissored down to size, one of thousands upon thousands of such cards he figures he owns.

It's not an affectation, though. It blocks the double vision in that eye, allowing him to drive.

Twice married and single now, the New Castle native and former Indy resident earned bachelor's and master's degrees in English from what is now the University of Indianapolis, worked for years in computers, then went to Anderson University to move into a teaching career.

Attempting to return to teaching after his stroke, however, he decided that would not be possible, and made a decision about his future.

"I put my 29 years in," he said of his previous careers, with more of a laugh than a sigh of resignation. "Now it's time for something else. ... I have all the time in the world."

His fledgling success at short-story horror writing began with one he sent to a website, AtomicAvarice.com. He then began sending stories other places and eventually connected in England with a Brit named Ken G. Bufton, who has published 26 horror story anthologies.

"To me, that makes the Internet so much fun," he said, citing his encounter with that publisher as an example of its usefulness.

Three of Bufton's anthologies, "The Dead Sea," ''Under the Knife" and "Another 100 Horrors," were sitting on Vannatter's coffee table. His stories in them, respectively, include "Sirens of the Dead," ''A Word of Advice" and "Dead Man's Chest."

That last book, by the way, consists of 100-word stories, miniature pieces that can be as hard to write as they are brief.

"It tones your writing," Vannatter said. "You've got to keep it concise."

Being published on websites is fine, he added, but it's a joy to see your words in print.

"Traditional publishing has always been a dream," he said, gratefully.

Ask him where he gets his ideas and he just sort of shakes his head as if it's hard to say, but get them he does. His publisher Bufton, in fact, paid him a compliment that any horror writer would relish.

"He told me, 'Your writing reminds me of Robert Bloch when he was young," Vannatter said, happily, conjuring up the name of the late mega-writer who penned a scary little book by the name of "Psycho," which also made a pretty good movie.

The father of two adult children, Aaron Vannatter and Aarika White, he said he is working to establish a distinctive style.

"My trademark is, I always have a twist at the end," said the writer, who is 55, adding that he now hopes to write a novella of maybe 70 pages, a zombie book, but one with a distinctive hook that will set it apart from the profusion of other flesh-eating fiction.

He has to steel himself for this task, however, because the stroke that very nearly killed him also damaged his ability to concentrate for extended periods.

"It's going to be really hard to write a book," he said.

One benefit he did reap from the stroke, although it might sometimes be hard to consider it a blessing, is that his stroke turned off many of his mental "filters." This can be a little disconcerting in speech now, when he tends to say whatever is on his mind.

But it has also opened up the proverbial floodgates of his imaginative writing.

"I don't worry about what I write now," said the 1976 Shenandoah High School graduate. "If you don't like it, don't read it."

When his isn't writing fiction he plays video games and watches movies, but he also blogs every day at https://kindredspirit23.wordpress.com, which is another passion of his.

"It keeps my mind sharp. I try to write 400 to 700 words a day," he said of his blog, noting he has been accessed by readers in 113 countries.

All this pleases the former computer expert and teacher, but it doesn't surprise him, notwithstanding the rough road he has faced since his stroke.

"My biggest belief is that everything works together for good in the end," Vannatter said. "If it hasn't, it's not the end."

___

Information from: The Star Press, http://www.thestarpress.com


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