Guest Post: What’s in a Name? (+ Freaks Anon Giveaway)


We’re giving away 2 copies of Freaks Anon by Matt Darst this month. Below, Matt provides some thoughts on genre classifications, the novel, and the changing nature of speculative fiction.

What’s in a Name?

To paraphrase author Charlie Jane Anders, the various genres in fiction are a lot like dog breeds. They’ve been engineered to promote very specific traits. For instance, good horror intends to scare its audience. In a sense, horror is the Rottweiler of fiction, a working group dog that seeks to terrify. Science fiction, on the other hand, is very different breed. Sci-fi imagines technological innovations and their impact on mankind. I’d liken the genre to the English bulldog, an animal today that has been genetically modified so that it looks and acts very different than its bull-baiting ancestors.

These genres and others can be great shorthand for readers and viewers looking for particular characteristics. The problem with genres, though, is that they can get tired. Purebred dogs, though loveable, are often susceptible to illnesses that don’t plague mutts. At its worst, horror can rely too heavily on gore, jump scares, or weary tropes. Other genres have their problems as well. Too often in sci-fi we find ourselves in a dystopian environment, traveling beyond the speed of light, being menaced by AI, or bumping up against an alternate universe. These themes are as unwelcome as hip dysplasia and other canine genetic disorders.

Writing across genre lines diversifies the gene pool. While these novels are just as loyal as their fixed genre peers, they offer a glimpse of something new, something refreshing. Crossovers can be chilling, inspiring, and even euphoric.

We’ve seen directors do this successfully. Take Alien. H.R. Giger designed something we had never seen before. Alien is sci-fi set in a haunted house. Or The Thing. John Carpenter pit Lovecraftian horror against the human race in a Cold War chess match. It’s a thriller as much as it is science fiction and horror.

So what did I learn from these films? It’s okay to write genre mash-ups. That’s a lesson that authors Charlie Huston (his Already Dead is the perfect mix of horror and noir), Michael Crichton, and Stephen King have underscored. Writers have varying interests. Why not encourage them to apply their diverse interests and views to their work? With that in mind, I began work on what would become Freaks Anon.

Freaks Anon is a supernatural superhero tale, a novel that’s as much urban fantasy and historical fiction as it is horror and sci-fi. It’s a nexus point between several passions, including music.

Turning back to Carpenter, not only does the director integrate a variety of genres and amazing visual effects (courtesy of Rob Bottin and Stan Winston), his collaboration with Ennio Morricone on the score helped create an even more comprehensive vision. Lately, there have been additional offerings in this vein. It Follows features an amazing soundtrack by Disasterpeace. Stranger Things preyed on our collective sense of 80s music nostalgia.

Freaks Anon is similarly inspired. So much of Freaks Anon is influenced by music that I decided to replace the typical chapter format with “tracks,” essentially creating a mix tape within the novel. Each song speaks to events or the theme of a chapter: The Church’s Ripple, The Jam’s Disguises, Bowie, The Walker Brothers, and dozens of other bands.

(Note: if I could somehow also include a visual element in my writing, I would. Design and music are like chocolate and peanut butter. You can’t get much better than the album art of Warhol or Peter Saville. Or the concert posters created by Mike Joyce of Swissted. Their work even inspired me to take a stab a redesigning some iconic film posters)

The Future

What does the future hold? Well, Alan Rinzler offered some thoughts on his blog for writers. “Genre is a convenience,” he noted, “a traditional device that the conventional process of commercial publication has been using awkwardly for centuries.” According to Rinzler, “The hegemony of genre categories is eroding. A book may well wind up on more than one shelf.” That’s a good thing for authors, especially writers like me, with a variety of interests and that don’t want to be pigeonholed or stifled by the trappings of a genre.

About the Novel

Rather that continue to talk in broad strokes about the novel, maybe it would be best to provide a back cover synopsis: Centurion is a wannabe superhero. Life is pretty hard for him, and it gets harder once his sidekick, Henry, dies. The police say Henry’s death was an accident, but Centurion knows better. Henry’s death is part of a bigger pattern. Someone’s murdering children, kids with extraordinary psychic and physical abilities, across the South and Midwest. He needs to find the killer…and fast. In Chicago, his prime suspect has already set her sights on a pair of new victims. But these teens aren’t like anything he’s ever seen. They’re special. Like Henry. Centurion will face spies, monsters, and the ultimate evil: the Chicago auto pound. If he doesn’t watch out, he might just find he’s the one in need of saving.

All proceeds from the sale of Freaks Anon will be donated to Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C).





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About Freaks Anon

Collection notices. Disapproving looks. Sleeping in a van. Life’s hard for wannabe superhero. Things get harder still when Centurion’s sidekick, Henry, dies.
The police say Henry’s death was an accident. Centurion knows better. His death is part of a bigger pattern. Someone’s murdering children, kids with extraordinary psychic and physical abilities, across the South and Midwest.
He needs to find the killer fast. In Chicago, his prime suspect has already set her sights on friends Astrid and Kim. But these teens aren’t like anything he’s ever seen. They’re special. Like Henry.
Centurion will face spies, monsters, and the ultimate evil: the Chicago auto pound. If he doesn’t watch out, he might just find he’s the one in need of saving.
All proceeds from the sale of Freaks Anon will be donated to charity.
Included with the novel is Matt’s dystopian short story Monument.

Matt Darst

Matt Darst

Matt Darst got hooked on reading early. His addiction to reading took a turn for the worst when he started writing…for fun. His experimentation with notebooks (a classic gateway) led to dabbling with typewriters. Soon he was hitting the hard stuff: word processors.

After law school, he decided to straighten out his life. He went cold turkey. He got a responsible job, a place in Chicago, and a dog. He surrounded himself with all the trappings of a normal life. Still…

Pen and pad call to Matt late at night, cooing his name, telling him to take another hit of fiction. Sometimes, when he’s weak, he heeds the siren call of the drug. He wakes from each blackout amid reams of freshly written pages, pages that have seemingly written themselves.


Freaks Anon On Amazon
Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C)

The Horror Tree Presents: Author Interview: Jaidis Shaw

Liz – Tell us a little bit about yourself and your part of the world?

Jaidis – I was born in California but moved when I was just a few months old. I’ve spent time growing up in various states including Michigan, Indiana, and South Carolina where I still reside. I have a wonderful husband, two beautiful daughters, and will be welcoming my third child this fall.

I began writing at an early age but didn’t really try making anything from it until high school. It wasn’t until several years later that I went ahead and pushed the publish button.

Liz – What are your preferred genres to write?

Jaidis – I love writing stories with paranormal elements. It is a great genre because there are endless possibilities. Most of my stories also fall under the horror category because I feel having that darkness helps to balance the light.

Liz – Which authors/books have inspired you?

Jaidis – I grew up reading many books but the Earth’s Children series by Jean M. Auel was always one of my favorites. If you haven’t read The Clan of the Cave Bear, which is book one, I highly recommend it!

Liz – Do your local surrounds influence/inspire your writing?

Jaidis – The only thing about my local surroundings that really influences me is the solidarity of being in a small town out in the country. The town I created in my first book, Destiny Awaits, takes place in a small town. I haven’t spent time in large cities so it would be hard for me to write a book that takes place in one.

Liz – As a busy mum, how & when do you find the time to write?

Jaidis – It’s so hard to find time! I know authors are always saying that you need to make a schedule and set aside to write but when you do have children, a business to run, and want to write it can be exhausting. I’m at a point now where when I do have free time to write I’d rather take a nap. I have to work really hard to force myself to close down the internet and just write.

Liz – Do you have a process you need to go through in order to write?

Jaidis – I don’t really have a specific process I go through. It’s usually while I’m sitting in the car line while waiting for my oldest daughter to get out of school. When I can sit at my computer to write, I stick to the basics: have a cold drink nearby, music playing on Pandora, and all social media windows closed. If I keep anything open on my computer, I get distracted.

Liz – Yes, social media is certainly a big distraction for me, also! Tell us about your novel, “Destiny Awaits”?

Jaidis – Destiny Awaits is a YA paranormal romance that tells the story of Alayna Scott. After losing both of her parents in a tragic accident, she decides that she needs to move in order to move on with her life. She ends up in the small town of Juniper Grove and things quickly change for her when she is bitten by a vampire. Her neighbor, a shapeshifter, saves her life but it is forever changed as she struggles to understand the supernatural world and what powers may be brewing within her.


Liz – Destiny Awaits won an award – tell us about the award. How did you feel when you found out?

Jaidis – It did! It was selected as the “Solo Medalist” in the 2016 New Apple Summer E-Book Awards for YA Romance. Last week it won another award. This time around it was selected as the “Official Selection” in the 2016 New Apple Annual Book Awards for Excellence in Independent Publishing! I couldn’t be more excited that it has one not one but two awards! Having my book selected out of thousands of entries by a panel of judges has given me a confidence boost like nothing before.

Liz –  That’s wonderful! Congratulations! Do you have any other solo projects in the works?

Jaidis – I have already started on the second book in the Juniper Grove Chronicles. Each book is standalone so book two tells the story of a secondary character that readers met in Destiny Awaits.

I also have a paranormal thriller started that I’m super excited about!

Liz –  Sounds intriguing! What is your ultimate goal as an author?

Jaidis – My ultimate goal as an author is to provide a brief escape from reality for anyone who needs it. If I can allow someone time to enjoy a story without having to worry about their troubles in life, I’ve accomplished my goal.

Liz – You’re the creator and editor of the successful ‘Lurking’ anthologies – what was the inspiration for the series?

Jaidis – The Lurking anthologies was an idea that I pitched to my publisher in the hopes that I could help authors share more stories with readers. Each book follows a theme and they have been really fun to put together.

The first book, Lurking in the Deep, are all stories about the creatures and horrors that live below the sea. I’ve always been fascinated with the ocean because we are always discovering new life forms and so there could be anything down there.

The second book, Lurking in the Shadows, is all about creatures or the fear that people have about the dark. It’s a bit darker than the first book but I love it!

The third book, Lurking in the Mind, will be released on April 4th and revolves around the horrors in the mind. It covers some more sensitive topics such as depression, multiple personalities, suicide, and more.

Liz – How have you found the process of selecting and declining submissions?

Jaidis – Sending rejections letters out to authors is the hardest part of the process. I don’t want to be viewed as the bad guy because authors work so hard on their stories but sometimes a story just doesn’t fit well with the theme and so it has to be let go.

Liz – Tell us about your own work that feature in the anthologies. Do you have a favourite?

Jaidis – I don’t know if I could pick a favorite. My story in Lurking in the Deep is titled “The Reluctant Seamstress” and the main character is the outcast of her underwater community. She is struggling to figure out why she is treated differently and would do anything to escape her captivity, even if that means sacrificing a part of herself.

The story I have in Lurking in the Shadows is a little darker (pun intended). It’s called “The House on Juniper Lane” and involves a crazy family tradition where the men in the family lure women out into the woods to kill them. The main female lead finds herself in that situation and isn’t afraid to fight back. It does have a surprise ending that I loved creating!

Liz – How have you found working with so many authors at once?

Jaidis – Working with several authors at once can be a little overwhelming but I enjoy it. They all have their own styles and ideas and it is nice to see a group working together to accomplish a common goal.

Liz – Do you have plans for any future releases in the ‘Lurking’ series?

Jaidis – There is another one that was scheduled, Lurking in the Woods, but it is on pause for right now. I’ve already received a couple of submissions for it so I may move forward with it if my schedule allows. I’m trying really hard this year to focus on my own writing since most of last year was dedicated to anthologies.

Liz – Are there plans for a new anthology series?

Jaidis – I’ve been wanting to release my own anthology for a long time now. I have it all planned out but just haven’t had the time to write it. I’ve also toyed with the idea of pitching another series idea to my publisher that I think could be fun. We’ll see what happens!

Liz – You’re also an advocate for supporting indie authors – where does this passion come from?

Jaidis – I remember how hard it was when I was first starting out. I hadn’t made a name for myself and nobody wanted to take a chance on someone they didn’t know. I think a lot of indie authors face similar hurdles, whether it is that they don’t know where to start or can’t find anyone willing to help them. Even with a publisher backing you it can be hard so I think it is important for authors to be there for each other and help if they can.

Liz – You’re the founder of ‘Juniper Grove Book Solutions’ – what led you to form the company, and what did you want to achieve? How would you like to see the company grow?

Jaidis – Back in 2010 I was working at a company that organized virtual books tours for authors. When that company closed, I still had the desire to help authors and that’s when JGBS was created.

I would love to see JGBS grow because I feel as though my team and I offer high quality services that gain books exposure while being affordable.

Liz – Tell us about the Juniper Grove Review Library.

Jaidis – The JGBS Review Library is a program I started to help authors gain reviews. They can submit their book for a small listing fee and then we advertise their book to readers and our team of reviewers. A reader can request a free ebook copy, which we send directly to their Kindle for extra security, in exchange for an honest review posted to sites like Amazon, Goodreads, etc.

Liz – Do you have any advice for those wanting to become a writer?

Jaidis – If you want to become a writer, work hard and make it happen. Don’t let your fears or insecurities prevent you from achieving your dreams. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You may feel alone or like it is hopeless, but that’s just because you haven’t found the right support system.

Jaidis Shaw

Jaidis Shaw


Jaidis Shaw currently resides in South Carolina with her husband and two beautiful daughters. With a passion for reading, Jaidis can always be found surrounded by books and dreaming of new stories. She enjoys challenging herself by writing in different genres and currently has several projects in the works.

Jaidis also owns and operates Juniper Grove Book Solutions, voted #1 Best Promotional Firm, Site, or Resource in the 2015 Preditors & Editors Readers’ Poll.
One of her main goals in life is to encourage her daughters to let their imaginations run wild.




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“The House on Juniper Lane” – featured in Lurking in the Shadows (2016)

“The Reluctant Seamstress” – featured in Lurking in the Deep (2015)

Destiny Awaits – published by CHBB Publishing (2014)

“Blind Justice” – featured in Wicked Bag of Suspense Tales (2012)

“The Tower” – featured in Twisted Fairy Tales Volume II (2011)

Destiny Awaits Book Awards:

Readers’ Favorite Book Award Finalist

“Solo Medalist” for Young Adult Romance in the 2016 New Apple Summer E-Book Awards

“Official Selection” for Young Adult Romance in the 2016 New Apple Annual Book Awards for Excellence in Independent Publishing

TunnelVision Blog Tour: Surrealism in Writing Horror

Surrealism in Writing Horror

By R. Patrick Gates, Author of TunnelVision


Surrealism can be a very effective storytelling tool in the Horror genre. Horror, or Dark Fantasy (a much more accurate label, in my opinion, since Horror falls under the broader category of fantasy, meaning stories that are outside the realm of reality) is a natural for Surrealism. Horror stories are, if anything, surreal. From the very beginning, the very roots of horror with Shelley’s Frankenstein, Stoker’s Dracula, and Poe’s macabre stories, has the surreal making up a big part of every horror tale. For most writers of Dark Fantasy the challenge has been how to make the surreal seem real and believable. I’ve always seen the challenge as being sort of the opposite: how do I make the real seem surreal? It has occurred to me that if anything were ever to actually happen that was in any way similar to the plot of a horror story, it would certainly seem as if reality had suddenly become surreality, and that is one of the challenges that I believe a modern writer of Dark Fiction has to try to meet.


So how does one incorporate Surrealism into their work? Well, in the same way all of us learned to write, we should start with reading, in particular Edgar Allan Poe, whose work is, in my opinion, the epitome of what Surrealism in Dark Fantasy should be. Just his mastery of vocabulary and language alone allowed him to create a surrealistic aspect to his work that has been unrivaled. Through imagery, simile, and metaphor he creates mood and atmosphere perfect for a dark tale.


Using vocabulary and literary techniques is the more sophisticated method, but presenting a worldview seen through the eyes of an insane person is probably the easiest method of incorporating Surrealism into a Dark Fantasy novel.One of the inspirations for my surreal novel, TunnelVision (25th anniversary edition now available from Bloodshot Books) was an article I had read about how schizophrenics perceive the world. Poe used this technique very effectively in many of his stories. Thomas Harris uses it in his novels, Red Dragon, and Silence of the Lambs—surrealistic reality seen through the eyes of serial killers. Using the mentally skewed narrator or character as P.O.V. can be a very effective way to incorporate surrealism in your work, and have quite a lot of fun while doing it because literally anything goes! Landscapes can be wildly and darkly Dali-esque and inanimate objects can speak and pontificate (personification in general can be a very big part of Surrealism). You can bring in music, movies, literary characters—anything you can imagine. It’s a chance for the writer to let their imagination run wild and rampant.


I recommend giving it a try—let go, explore and have fun with it—you can always reel it in a little on rewrite.


Thank God for rewrites.



Follow along the tour with these hashtags: #Tunnelvision  #BloodshotBooks #HookofaBook

Tunnelvision (25th Anniversary Edition), Synopsis –

One fine day in the middle of the night,

Two dead boys got up to fight.

Back to back they faced each other,

Drew their swords and shot each other.

A deaf policeman heard the noise,

And came and killed the two dead boys.…

The empty airwaves of the mind…

Welcome to TunnelVision – the premium channel streaming from the imagination of R. Patrick Gates to you!

What happens when you lose sight of the forest for the trees?


Wilbur Clayton has a personal connection with Jesus – Murder! Abused for most of his life, Wilbur and Jesus are out to make amends and take revenge. With Grandma in his head and Jesus on the TunnelVision, Wilbur knows what must be done and who must be made to pay for the sins of the father…

The only thing standing in his way are a cop with a gift for details and deduction, and a young genius whose reenactments of his favorite books are about to become all too real.

TunnelVision – streaming seven days a week, 24 hours a day!

On the air and in your nightmares!

R. Patrick Gates

R. Patrick Gates

R. Patrick Gates has been a teacher and writer for over thirty years. Besides Tunnelvision, which is currently being published in a 25th anniversary edition, he is the author of Grimm Memorials and Grimm Reapings, (which have achieved cult status and been called ‘horror classics’ by Rave Reviews) and seven other critically acclaimed adult horror novels and at least ten young adult thrillers. Mr. Gates resides in Massachusetts with his wife and dogs, and dabbles in painting and acting in his spare time. You can find him online at his website.

Brain Babies: How to Nickel-and-Dime Yourself to Death!



Probably, like me, you’ve been told your whole life that you need to save, Save, SAVE!

Set up that nest egg, that rainy day fund; make sure you have enough when you retire.


Where’s the fun in that?


Okay, so you might find it difficult to kick the saving habit. I’m here to help.

There’s something you’re probably doing already, that you can increase with surprising ease

Drink more coffee!

If you drink, say, two cups a day now, drink five! And none of that “free refill” nonsense either. Go to different cafes; don’t bring your own cup (they give you discounts for that). And, if you drink the regular stuff, switch to lattes; they cost at least twice as much.

And the best part? You just piss it all away!

Speaking of which, alcohol is another great choice: not only is it even more addictive than caffeine, it’s also more expensive.

You may be a collector. I know I am. Now, here you have to be careful. Things like stamps, coins and baseball cards can actually increase in value. Nobody wants that.

I used to play Magic the Gathering. When I finally kicked the habit, I sold all of my cards (some 200 or so) at once at a con. I had two Mox Pearls and a Black Lotus; I got $10 for all three. Nowadays, those are worth hundreds, if not thousands of dollars! The key is getting rid of them in a timely fashion, before they appreciate too much.

But, hey! If you somehow miss that window, it’s okay. Remember, trading cards are made of paper, and paper is flammable. In fact, so is money!


Stop working. Right now. This instant. Walk up to your boss, look them straight in the eye, and let them know just how much you really hate them. Then, because this might not actually be enough to get you fired (especially if you’re in a union), pee on their shoes. This is easier for people with penises, but manageable for everyone if you’re willing to put a little effort into it.

That, right there, will drastically decrease money coming in, and make it so much easier to get rid of what you have. You see how easy it can be?


Give whatever you might have saved up away to a charity, but don’t get a receipt. This is crucial, because, at the end of the year, you could get money back in taxes. Nobody wants that.

If you have a car, leave it running somewhere. Don’t worry; someone will steal it, even in a nice neighborhood. Teenagers, in particular, just can’t resist going for a joyride.

But, please, make sure you don’t have insurance on it. It’s important to plan ahead.

If you own a home, great! Most of your money is already going into paying for it! However, if you’re not careful, a house can actually become more valuable. Be sure you don’t fix anything! It’s also helpful to leave your doors and windows open at all times, so that wildlife can come in and help destroy your environment. Bonus: thieves will have full access to your other possessions, which frees you up from having to find other ways to get rid of them.

If you rent, even better! You’re basically throwing your money away! I strongly suggest you also rent your furniture and appliances, too; this is a great way to hemorrhage your cash.

Did you know you can rent cars, too? Find a really nice one: they cost a freakin’ ton every month.


Well, there you have it. In no time at all, you can be freed of your worldly assets, and live your life not having to worry about paying the bills or sending the kids to college.

No responsibilities. No pressures. No cash.

For the complete how-to guide and workbook, please send $17,000 to Ken MacGregor. It’s a great start!

WIHM: Why Do We Need Women in Horror Recognition Month?

Why Do We Need Women in Horror Recognition Month?

Julianne Snow

At times, I look on the acronym WiHM and it seems like a catchphrase, something the community tosses about in January and focuses on in February, but then forgets in the first few weeks of March. Technically it’s not a bad thing, just an observation.

With the focus on the ladies in the month of February, there is heightened sense of visibility, something that likely would not have been achieved any other way. But does that visibility actually gain us anything? Why does there need to be a month set aside to shine the light on the work of women?

I can only speak from my own perspective and it all stems back to my formative years. Some of my literary loves started with recommendations. Who gave me those recommendations? Librarians. Don’t get me wrong, Mr. Conner, Mrs. Maher and Mrs. Street were invaluable to me in many ways, but their education in horror and science fiction was lacking at times. Sure they knew the ‘greats’—King, Poe, Lovecraft, Bradbury—but that’s where their knowledge ended. Not that I blame them, despite the fact a librarian should know it all, there is such a thing as taste and preference.

In fact, I can remember picking up a Christopher Pike book in elementary school and having Mr. Conner tell me it wasn’t for me, stating it was a little too gory for my mind. Looking back now, I’m not sure if he was saying that because I was a girl, or because I was only in Grade 4. Little did he know I’d been devouring Stephen King since Grade 3 and could definitely handle the subject matter contained between the covers of Scavenger Hunt. I signed it out anyway and then asked him to bring in more by Pike in the coming months (I already knew he wasn’t going to bring in King, despite having been asked more than once). He did, but I think he did it begrudgingly.

If I were to pause to question why he was less than thrilled to satisfy my demands for decent horror reads, I’d say it had a lot to do with what he felt I should be reading. I was constantly pressed with Roald Dahl, Charlotte and Emily Bronte and Lucy Maud Montgomery, and there’s nothing wrong with any of those choices, but they weren’t what I was interested in reading.

And if reading’s not fun, you’re less likely to do it. If I hadn’t been persistent in searching out those books and authors, (keep in mind the internet really wasn’t readily available back in the mid-to-late 80s the way it is now) I would never have found them.

So what bearing does all of this have on Women in Horror Recognition Month? Well it helps to answer the question of why we need it. Sure, it’s a great way to highlight the work of women in the creative industries, but it also serves as a reminder that the minds of young girls need to be kept open. That reading is a good thing, a beneficial thing to the growth of a young mind. And that horror, while not for everyone, has a place. If we don’t help to highlight the works of today, they’ll be forgotten and not introduced to the generations of tomorrow. That’s why we need WiHM—for the women who will come after us.


Julianne Snow

Julianne Snow


Julianne Snow is the author of the Days with the Undead series and Glimpses of the Undead. She is the founder of Zombieholics Anonymous and the Co-Owner and Publicist at Sirens Call Publications. Writing in the realms of speculative fiction, Julianne has roots that go deep into horror and is a member of the Horror Writers Association. With pieces of short fiction in various publications, Julianne always has a few surprises up her sleeves.
You can find out more about Julianne at: The FlipSide of Julianne.

WIHM: Time and the Single Parent Blog

I became a full-time single parent—by full-time I mean 24/7, 365 days a year—in 2003 and thought that was the end of writing until the kids left the nest. Three mentally unhappy and restless years followed and I realized I felt the way I did because I wasn’t writing. I had always written and to stop wasn’t working for me. Never one for watching much TV, I read instead, I decided to cut down my two hours of reading time after the kids went to bed down to one and spend the other writing. It took a while to get into the habit but I stuck with it. When the kids were younger, it was much easier as their bedtime was much earlier but as they got older it became harder. Strange to think it’d get harder but I am one of those who can’t write when their kids are up and about.

I try to write 200 words a night but have to remind myself 200 words a day are better than zero. 200 words doesn’t sound like such a hard number to reach but when you’re gone ten hours a day, making dinners, playing mom-taxi, making sure homework is completed, and all the rest of the duties it takes to run a household, it can become like trying to scale Mount Everest.  Some nights by the time I get to the keyboard, I’m done. On those nights, after staring at the screen in a kind of waking sleep, I’ll write a sentence or two of what direction the story was supposed to go in that session and go answer emails that need answering. I won’t beat myself up for not getting my 200 words in for one night.  One night. If I let it go more than one, I get caught in the “I can catch up tomorrow” cycle and before I know it a month has gone by with nothing written.

One hour a night, 200 words a night, 1,400 a week, 5,600 a month, and 67,200 a year can be frustrating when you see others posting word counts of 2,000 a day on social media. It used to drive me nuts with word count envy. And it still can but I have to remember I doing the best I can with that I have. I guess if I have any advise for full-time single parents, it’s to remember you are doing the work of two people and not to get down on yourself if you’re not as prolific. As long as you keep at it, keep eking out time even if it’s one hour a night, four hours on the weekend, or, if you live near the other parent and share custody, a weekend day devoted to writing, you are still writing. You are still doing what you love even if it takes a bit longer.

But what about keeping up with social media, blogging, marketing, and the business end of writing? As I started to have work published that presented its own set of challenges. Slow times at work, lunch breaks, and coffee breaks became the time when I’d hop on my phone to check emails and, if it required a short response, respond. Also, I’d make a stop at my social media sites and posted about an upcoming publication if there was one or a random meme if there wasn’t. Except for a few guest blog posts here and there blogging never became my thing, as it is a bridge too far in the time I have available. As for research, I take the write first research after approach just to get the thing down. My manuscripts are full of highlighted areas to “double check”. Or, if the research needs to be done beforehand, I forgo my leisure reading time.

The point I’m trying to make is writing and single parenting is hard but doable. There are sacrifices too. Like giving up that favorite TV show or computer game or reading time. It may be slower and you may feel like those you started this trek with are passing you by—in low moments I know I can—but it is possible. Just find that hour a day or that one day a week and write your heart out. I know you can do it. As another single parent writer I know with little time to write once told me, “Everyone has to poop.”

Chris Marrs

Chris Marrs

Chris Marrs lives in Calgary, Alberta with her daughter, a cat, and a ferret. She has stories in A Darke Phantastique (Cycatrix Press-2014), the Bram Stoker winning The Library of the Dead (Written Backwards Press-2015), and in Dark Discoveries Issue #25/Femme Fatale, October 2013. Bad Moon Books published her novella Everything Leads Back to Alice in the Fall of 2013. Her novella, Wild Woman, was published in September 2015 as part of JournalStone’s DoubleDown series. Entangled Soul, a collaborative novella with Gene O’Neill, was published by Thunderstorm Books in November 2016. January Friday the 13th, saw the publication of Intersections: Six Tales of Ouija Horror in which her story Sounds in Silence appears. She has two stories forthcoming with Great Jones Street short story app.
You can find her at or Instagram as hauntedmarrs.

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