I remember being 7-years old when my mother, who enjoyed the esoteric--she had books on UFOs, the paranormal, all that is odd, that I dug into with curious glee--handed me an anthology of horror stories. I vaguely remember the cover had some beast crawling out of a dark cellar (if that’s the right anthology--there were more, oh yes), yet I cannot remember the title, alas. But buried within those pages, there was a story by H.P. Lovecraft that left me in a state of wonder because of how the words created an ambience of eeriness that enveloped me. I clearly remember feeling as though that fantastic world was real because in my head he painted such a vivid picture that my already darkly inclined mindset embraced it. I think the story was one of the Silver Key stories, but it could have been any one of his weird tales; “The Colour Out Of Space“ comes to mind as a strong possibility, too, it being one of the greatest weird tales ever, fully immersing me in an ambience of dread so fine I can sense it squirming in the cranial prison even now. For the sake of argument, yes, I know "Colour..." is a novelette, but my point is it was easily digested in a lazy afternoon, not a week or three as with a novel. Ray Bradbury and Harlan Ellison (the master of the speculative short tale) followed in line; Joe Lansdale, David Schow, Clive Barker, Clark Ashton Smith, Ballard, Borges, Ligotti, Kiernan, Pulver, Barron... The list goes on and on, old and new masters who affected me and still do, giving me the jolt to write, to create a world and worlds as distinct and strange as theirs.
In 7,500 words or less. ;-)