Monday, September 23, 2013

They Are Waiting - Caren Widner Hanten - Biggest Aha Moments in Writing

When Draven first asked me to do this, I wasn’t sure I could come up with a good Aha! Moment. I didn’t think I had one. But upon reflection, I realized that many Aha! Moments are subtle, happening without us even realizing it. I actually have several Aha! Moments I could discuss, my first story sold, being a winner of the 2011 Cemetery Amateur Writing Contest, joining the HWA, but I would like to talk about my first significant contract. That is when I really thought I might be able to succeed in the horror industry.

Having written for most of my life, I never considered submitting to a publisher until after I’d hit my thirties. My first short story written as an adult was accepted by Dark Moon Books in March of 2010 for the premiere issue of Dark Moon Digest. I placed a few more stories during the year and was fairly proud of my progress. When Dark Moon put out a call for an Extreme Horror anthology, I sent my story in and went about the wait. Two months later I got an email from the publisher, praising the story and asking if I could write more in the same vein. I said I could, proved it with two more stories, and a year after my first acceptance, signed a contract to write the whole book myself. I had envisioned years of occasional acceptances and many rejections before I would be able to bring out my own collection, but in March of 2012, Dark Moon books released Ad Nauseam: 13 Tales of Extreme Horror.

No two writers walk the same path and no two journeys are exactly the alike, but if you set your heart to it and do the work, those Aha! Moments are out there waiting for you.

A member of the Horror Writer’s Association and the 2013 Bram Stoker Awards® Committee, C.W. LaSart has been published by Cemetery Dance Publications, Dark Moon Books, Nightscape Press, Evil Jester Press and many more. Her collection, Ad Nauseam: 13 Tales of Extreme Terror was released by Dark Moon Books in the Spring of 2012. Find out more at

Acquisitions: What We Seek - Erin Lale - Biggest Aha Moments in Writing

I'm always looking for the next new thing in horror. Of course we're still open to the usual vampire, werewolf, ghost, demon, zombie, serial killer, apocalypse, asylum, dystopia, bad juju, haunted house, possessed object, elder gods, mutant monster, cursed family line, disturbed graveyard, etc. but I'll be excited about your book if you can write something really different and still write it really well, with an intriguing opening, a satisfying ending, and rising horror in between.

Because I'm looking for the book of the future, I'm open to fairly bizarre books as long as they still have an identifiable horror plot. Even an experimental book must still clearly belong in the genre, because genre fiction is what we publish. We don't do literary fiction, so including a chart of your book's symbolism in the cover letter is off target. Also, when describing your book in the cover letter,  please don't review your own book. Calling your own book "a tour de force" does not impress me.

I'm looking for books that will crack the bestseller list. That means I'm looking for the highest quality in either new ideas or old standbys, and it means I pay attention to the author's marketing plan. Sometimes authors forget about that part, but it's extremely important. When I'm considering several equally good manuscripts which are similar to each other, I'm likely to choose the one for which the author has a clear and impressive plan to sell a lot of books.

Erin Lale, Acquisitions Editor
Damnation Books

Kim Richards, CEO of Damnation Books, also said there are a couple of good sites with newsletters that are useful. She pointed out that Author Marketing Experts,, has a great newsletter they send out regularly. She also recommends for a forum and weekly chats where authors get to talk about writing, ask questions, etc. Wednesdays are open chats; Sunday's have a guest author coat. Lastly, she said Book is aimed for self-publishing but that it has some practical advice for any author.

Scary Lady: Why I Write Horror - Amy Grech - Biggest Aha Moments in Writing

Growing up on Long Island with a twin brother a minute older than me, I remember one Christmas; my mother bought me a doll. She showed it to me and I pushed it aside, not a stereotypical girl, I preferred to play with my googlies instead: an assortment of rubber monsters that included a dragon, a glow-in the dark skeleton and other assorted creatures.

Don’t get me wrong, as a little girl I played hopscotch with the other girls. Jump rope, too, but I also loved digging in the dirt for earthworms and battles… A bit of a daredevil, I also reveled in the thrill of ridding bikes with the boys and flying off a crude plywood jump propped up precariously on two cinder blocks. 

I started writing seriously in high school after reading several of Stephen King’s novels; I was hooked on Horror at the tender age of twelve when an Aunt gave me a copy of Cujo!  I’ve been reading Stephen King’s books ever since. I noticed there weren’t very may women writing scary stories, so I set out to change that. Why should men have all the fun, writing frightfully good fiction?
I was raised Catholic. The nuns at my Catholic elementary school could scare kids with just one look…plus, most of those Bible stories are downright scary! Funny, I’m not very religious now.

The Horror genre is definitely male dominated. The odds are stacked against female Authors, but creative, ambitious women will always run with the boys. Besides me, there are a handful of successful Horror Authors: Linda Addison, Louise Bohmer, Fran Friel, Sephera Giron, Nancy Kilpatrick, K.H. Koehler, Jan Kozlowski, Sarah Langan, Joyce Carol Oates, Kelli Owen, and Gina Ranalli to name a few…

I remember when I first started attending conventions back in the 1990s and male Horror Authors unfamiliar with my work asked me whose wife/girlfriend I was. I’d just shrug, mention some of my publishing credits and then tell these guys I’d be reading at the con. Some would attend my reading and even buy my books.

Women tend to be more emotional than men, so being a woman allows me to covey my characters’ emotions, no matter how good or bad. My parents weren’t exactly pleased with my choice of Horror. To appease them, I wrote and sold several children’s stories, but that’s not where my heart was.  My mother reads my work, but my father flat out refuses to; maybe one day he’ll come around…

I think men feel threatened by women who write Horror and are successful because we aren’t afraid to get down and dirty! Society says women shouldn’t do certain things. Being attracted to the macabre and writing scary sometimes-graphic stories may be one of them, but I’ve always marched to the beat of my own drummer, so I’ll continue to focus on Horror! Skeptics be damned! Follow your muse, ladies! If it’s hell-bent on scaring the pants off your readers, then so be it!

Amy Grech has sold over one hundred stories and three poems to various anthologies and magazines including: Apex Magazine, Beat to a Pulp: Hardboiled, Fear on Demand, eFiction Magazine, Funeral Party 2, Inhuman Magazine, Needle Magazine, Space & Time, The Brutarian, The Uninvited Magazine, and many others. Damnation Books published her second collection, Blanket of White.

She has a story forthcoming in Expiration Date. Amy is an Active Member of the Horror Writers Association who lives in Brooklyn.  Visit her website here, or find her on Twitter.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The End - John Hornor Jacobs - Biggest Aha Moments in Writing

This might be simplistic, but I think the biggest "ah-ha" moment I ever had writing was the first time I typed THE END on a novel. Writing is by nature a very solitary thing, and most of writers are consumed with traveling through interior landscapes often weathered with self-doubt. Even great novelists have to deal with swinging pendulum of emotions, back and forth between mania to what-the-fuck-am-I-doing-in-this-manuscript? moments. And without the sense of accomplishment of having already written a novel, writing that first one was somewhat like stumbling around in the dark looking for an exit. As they say, that first step is a doozy.

So, when I finally came to the end of Southern Gods, my first novel, and typed THE END - hammered out just like that with big-ass capital letters - there was not only the dueling senses of relief and exhaustion but an overwhelming thought: "I can do this! I can do this!"

Little did I know that every novel requires the author to relearn how to write a novel - particularly that novel. But the confidence that comes with already having one (or three or eight) under your belt, well, that confidence is invaluable.

John Hornor Jacobs' first novel, Southern Gods, was published by Night Shade Books and shortlisted for the Bram Stoker Award. His second novel, This Dark Earth, was published in July, 2012, by Gallery/Pocket Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. His young adult series, The Incarcerado Trilogy comprised of The Twelve Fingered Boy, The Shibboleth, and The Conformity, will be published by Carolrhoda Labs, an imprint of Lerner Publishing.

His first fantasy series, The Incorruptibles will be published in Spring 2014 by Gollancz, an imprint of Hachette Livre, in the UK.

John is the co-founder of Needle: A Magazine of Noir and was the active creative director until fall 2012. He has a quartet of horror stories, Fierce As The Grave, available through

Visit him on the web at

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Hidden Agendas - Simon Wood - Biggest Aha Moments in Writing

A few years back, I was on a panel and an audience member asked what kind of writers we were. Struggling was the first thing that sprung to my mind, but that wasn’t the answer the questioner was looking for. I never felt that I had an agenda or a platform to perch my work upon. It was a really good question and it got me thinking.

I see themes in other writers’ work, but what about me. What can o’ worms get opened up every time I write a tale. When I examine my stories, I do see a common theme running through them all. Predicaments seem to play a central role in my stories. Usually an unsuspecting person, an average Joe by every definition, is put on the spot. A situation arises that my protagonist can’t walk away. The reason they are there is usually their own fault. Sometimes it falls into the no good deed variety, but usually, the story’s hero has done something to get them ensnared. A tryst. An indiscretion. A little white with a black edge. A past mistake. These factors are subject to Newtonian psychics. For every action, there’s an equal and opposition reaction. It doesn’t matter how minor the mistake my characters have committed, there’s a price to be paid. Things come back to trip my protagonists up. This means my heroes are starting off on the back foot. They are struggling with desperate times where failure means the destruction of their comfortable way of life. So my stories are told from a nightmarish stance. My protagonists are desperate when the reader meets them.

Where do these characters come from? Why have I chosen storylines like this? I think it’s because I can identify with these people. I live a pretty ordinary life, but I can see how fine a line I walk. One bad decision and my life could change forever. There have been several instances in my life where something I’ve done has come back to bite me (and I may share one or two of these over the month). Some very innocuous actions have caused some of these instances. I also grew up with a number of people who bit off more than they could chew and it really cost them. So when my what-if synapses kick in, it usually centers on a minor action that will snowball into something large.

So I have a method to my madness and I like it, because life has a funny way of turning mean when you cross a line. Just ask Anthony Wiener and a thousand other people who thought nothing could ever come back to haunt them.

     BIO: Simon Wood is a California transplant from England who’s been a competitive race car driver, is a licensed pilot, and an occasional PI. He shares his world with his wife, Julie, and their longhaired dachshund and five cats. His short fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines anthologies, such as Seattle Noir, Thriller 2 and Woman’s World. He’s a frequent contributor to Writer’s Digest. He’s the Anthony Award winning author of Working Stiffs, Accidents Waiting to Happen, Paying the Piper and We All Fall Down. As Simon Janus, he’s the author of The Scrubs and Road Rash. His latest novel, No Show, is out now. To learn more about Simon, visit his website.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wanna Bet? - Brett J. Talley - Biggest Aha Moments in Writing

What did it take for me to write a book? I just needed the right inspiration—competition. Or should I say, gambling. Sure, I’d written things before. Short-stories, essays, even a few pieces that approached long fiction. But a book? Impossible. I have the attention span of a goldfish. No way I could write the same story for weeks on end. Nay, months. But I had a friend who was a fantastic writer, and she made an interesting proposition. She bet me that she could finish her book first.

Now, I’m a nice guy, and I figured it would help her to get done with her project. What I couldn’t imagine is the effect it would have on me.

I became a writing fiend.

Every day, I’d write. Friends would go out for drinks. I wrote. People from work trained for marathons.

I wrote. Old buddies met girls and got married.

I wrote. Before I knew it, I’d finished one book and started on another. And another. And another. I discovered a passion I never knew I had. I’d become an addict. All I needed was the right inspiration.

So what’ll it be? Maybe it’s time to find someone you can challenge to a little race. After all, aren’t you ready to finally write the next great American novel, the one you’ve been stewing over for months or even years?

Don’t think you can do it? Wanna bet?

     For more information, you can check out Brett's work at

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Eaten by the Bear - Tom Barczak - Biggest Aha Moments

There’s a story of a group of people who went for a walk in the woods.

Only one of the poor souls came back.

The group had been attacked by a bear.

Everyone was, of course, grief stricken, and wondered how the lucky soul returning had been fast enough to get away when his companions hadn’t.

“It was quite simple, really.” The wise soul said.

“You don’t have to be faster than the bear.  You just need to be faster than the person behind you.”

This was one of my biggest “Ah ha” moment as a writer, the day I first heard this. 

For me, it was I didn’t see how I would ever get published.  And I had so many excuses.  But it was in that moment that I realized - so did everybody else, and that most people don’t ever get away from them.

They quit.  They give up.  They quit running. And they get eaten by the bear.

But I don’t have to be.

As long as I just.  Keep.  Writing.