The Horror Tree Presents…An Interview with Edward Ahern

Selene – Welcome to the Horror Tree, and thanks for joining us today. Let’s start with you telling us a bit about yourself.

Edward – Thanks for the interview. My life’s been wonderfully haphazard: naval officer/diver/bomb disarmer, reporter, intelligence operative/handler, sales/marketing executive, writer, couple advanced degrees, proficiency in three languages. I’ve tried to remain immature as I aged, avoiding the ossified judgements that constrict so many adults. And I give myself permission to change my mind about issues and individuals when warranted.

 

Selene – From your bio, it appears you started creative writing after retirement. What’s it like, starting a new journey later in life?

 

Edward – I wrote corporate marketing plans for years, which prepared me for tinkering with the truth in fiction. Lots of drawbacks to starting to write late in life, but one advantage is that I’m not worried about making it a career and can try and craft each story and poem to ring true.

 

Selene – I notice you write mainly short fiction and poetry. What appeals to you about the shorter form, rather than writing novels?

 

Edward – Time horizon. At seventy-five I don’t make bold predictions about length of life or lucidity. I do have a published novella, “The Witches’ Bane,” and a novel 40k words in progress, but I’m frequently seduced by a new story or poem idea and amble off to write them.

 

Selene – Let’s talk about poetry. Poetry is rarer in the speculative fiction community, although there are some great spec-fic poets out there. How does your approach to poetry differ from prose?

Edward – The bulk of my poetry is ‘general’ or perhaps (shudder) ‘literary,’ but I do have a fair number of speculative poems that have gotten published. It’s harder for me to write a good horror poem than to anguish about my wounded psyche. I try and capture the delicious fear contained in Little Orphan Annie- “and the goblins’ll git you if you don’t watch out.” Good horror poetry I think is sensory. I try and make the reader physically uncomfortable and yet enjoy the process.

 

Selene – You’ve also got a strong background in journalism and have published a few essays. How does writing non-fiction differ from fiction, and which do you like better?

 

Edward – I really enjoyed my time as a newspaper reporter, and if they’d paid me more I might still be doing it. The two best brought-alongs from my reporting days are a respect for accuracy- which translates well into plot integrity- and the ability to sit down and write regardless of mood or digestion.

 

 

Selene – Because this is The Horror Tree, what about the horror genre draws you, as a writer?

 

Edward – I love scary stories, both reading and writing, but am not impressed by prose sloppy with gore, although I’ve written some of it. There is latent evil under every good, and good horror writing shows me how precarious my hold is on that good. Probably a third of my speculative fiction is horror, another third fairy tale and fable, and the balance fantasy and science fiction.

 

Selene – What I’ve read of your stories is very character-driven. Why and how do you choose the people you write about, and how do you draw your characters?

 

Edward – I think a story that resonates with readers lets them into the mind and emotions of characters. I try for troubled, imperfect narrators who reach behind readers’ veneers to touch the sore spots. I try for people who are heroic without being heroes.

 

Selene – As a horror/speculative writer, there’s one character that always seems to be lurking around the corners of your writing: Death. This may seem like a strange question, but I’ve noticed that a lot of horror seems to be “How Not to Die.” By contrast, your characters seem to be dealing with the inevitability of death in various ways. Do you notice this, as you write? 

 

Edward – That’s a very good question. A fair amount of what I did in the military and in intelligence work involved physical risk, and my recreations of hunting and fishing are premised on something dying. I’ve come relatively close a few times and accept calculated risks. Running away from one fate sometimes just means you’ve let another one in.

 

Selene – I’d like to talk about fairy tales, now. At least two of your stories are inspired by Russian folk tales. Is there a particular culture or country’s fairy tales you like or that influence you, or do you like stories from many places?

 

Edward –  It’s a smorgasbord. The published stories from other cultures are all folk rather than fairy tales- two Russian, one Norwegian, one Turkish, two Inuit, one Japanese and four Native American. Around thirty years ago the main Bridgeport, CT library had an extensive collection of folk tales and I read through most of the books, photocopied forty or so of the tales, rewrote them, and submitted them for publication. I received two nice rejection letters and put the stories in a box for the next quarter century. I finally wiped off the dust, re-rewrote these eleven pieces and individually submitted them, all accepted. Sadly, over the years the Bridgeport library got rid of the books of folk tales, so I saved a little bit of something now gone.

 

Selene – You’ve published a book of your own fairy tales, written for your children and grandchildren. How did that come about?

 

Edward – Our children didn’t breed enough to populate an entire book with protagonists. Only five of the stories in the book feature a grandchild as the hero, the rest are retold folk tales and modern fairy tales. I wanted to give our grandchildren something they could have read to them, and something they could read to their children, which is why I wrote and assembled the stories in The Witch Made Me Do It.

 

Selene – The Witch Made Me Do It is described as a book of “modern” fairy tales. How would you say a “modern” tale is different from a “classic” tale, and what’s your approach to writing one?

 

Edward – Unless it’s satiric, I avoid the classic fairy tale settings, and set the stories and characters in the present, modernizing the evil doers and monsters. There’s some bleed into stories that got published as fantasy but could arguably be called fairy tales. A “modern” fairy tale can address real time issues for children. I’m not sure we do our children a favor by always insisting on the tales we were told when young

 

Selene – In addition to fairy tales, what are some of your writing influences, and what do you like to read?

 

Edward – I hate clichés but will use one here. My reading habit is a dog’s breakfast. I love and am infuriated by David Foster Wallace, leisure-read a fair amount of place-focused non-fiction, read about 20k words/week of fiction and poetry for the review board at Bewildering Stories, critique two stories and a few poems a week for writing groups I participate in, and often purpose-read fiction authors whose techniques I’m studying.

 

Selene – Before you retired, you had a long career in business, and military training before that. Do you ever use your experiences in these fields as writing fodder?

 

Edward –

All the time. It’s a lot easier to write absorbingly about experiences I’ve had rather than experiences I’m conjecturing. Sensory detail of course, but even more the emotions and conflicts that accompany the events. A story based on my spooky days, “Alten Kameraden” is as viscerally close as I’ll ever get to describing what it was like to be an operative.

 

Selene – What advice would you give a newer writer, especially one starting writing later in life?

 

Edward – The first draft sucks. Always. Frequent rejections are a given and can be accepted in stride. Writing isn’t a zero-sum game, we don’t win or lose, we just get better at playing. As both a writer and an editor I can confidently say that acceptance is a matter of editorial taste, especially in poetry. However, if more than five editors turn a piece down, revise it. An older writer, I think, has an easier time finding her voice. Doesn’t make her writing any better, just means it’s consistent.

 

Selene – What writing projects are you working on now, and what’s next for you?

 

Edward – The novel in progress is temporarily called The Rule of Chaos. It’s a paranormal thriller set in the U.S. and Iraq. I was 40k words into it and realized that I didn’t like what I was doing. After a year on the shelf I figured out how it should be written and will spend much of the next year rewriting and expanding it to 80k or so words. I write two or three poems and a short story or two a month. I’ve assembled a poetry collection that I’m shopping around now. Hopefully someone will have the bad taste to publish it.

 

Selene – Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. Do you have anything else you’d like to talk about here?

 

Edward – Horror, like humor, doesn’t get the respect it deserves. It seems peculiar that the most intensely emotional writing- horror, humor, romance- gets talked down, as if reluctant to admit to feelings unattached to literary layering.

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Post: Writing Horror

Horror stories have been around ever since early man learned how to communicate with his own kind. The genre of horror has been linked to ancient folklore, religious practices, and common superstitions, with a heavy focus on evil, death, the afterlife, demons, witches, ghosts, werewolves, and vampires. Horror fiction became firmly established in early Europe through a myriad of mythological tales that were created by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Ever so popular, the horror genre continued to persist throughout the Medieval Era, finally emerging as Gothic horror in the 18th century. Though there have been many famous horror writers throughout history, Edgar Allan Poe was the first American writer to popularize horror and the macabre. Poe is not only recognized as the “Father of the Detective Story,” with his publication of The Murders In The Rue Morgue in 1841, but he is also credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction.

Good horror stories tend to have one thing in common—fear—especially fear of the unknown. As H.P. Lovecraft, the master of the horror tale in the twentieth century once said, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” Horror is defined as an intense feeling of fear, great shock, disgust, and/or worry caused by something extremely unpleasant. A unique genre of fiction, horror has the capacity to frighten, scare, disgust, or startle its readers or viewers by inducing feelings of horror and terror.

The components of a good horror story usually include fear, surprise, suspense, mystery, foreshadowing, and imagination. A good horror author will know how to interconnect these important elements together in a way that will make for an intriguing tale of the macabre.

Fear is paramount to any horror story. Scaring the reader with fears they may or may not have (fear of the unknown) is key to writing a spooky tale. A strong emotion of fear sets horror apart from the other genres, and expanding on that fear can contribute to surprise. If the author can’t elicit fear in the reader, then the story shouldn’t fall into the horror genre.

Surprise is important in order to connect with the reader. If the writer can make the fear(s) a surprise, then the story will be even more exciting. Many horror movies rely on the element of surprise to terrify its audience. By tying a surprise to the end of a long suspense, the reader will stay hooked on the storyline.

Suspense can be used to keep the reader’s adrenaline flowing, especially if it plays off of fear. If the story is written well, then the reader will be afraid if the character is afraid. Well-placed suspense holds the reader’s interest in the story and puts them on the edge of their seat. If suspense is intertwined with fear, then it will keep the reader on a roller coaster ride. A suspenseful story is more often than not dependent on a good mystery.

Mystery is a strong element in any horror tale. Generally speaking, the more unknowns the author has in a story, the better the read. A mystery that’s not solved until the end of the book can definitely make for a suspenseful tale. Mystery and suspense can also be used together as a hook to keep the reader’s attention. In order to surprise its reader, a story needs to have a convincing mystery.

What’s the difference between mystery and suspense? Mystery contains one or more elements that remain unexplained or unknown until a story’s ending. A good mystery story showcases a given character’s struggle with different psychological and/or physical obstacles in an effort to achieve a particular goal or goals. Suspense is elicited when the reader isn’t aware of what’s coming next or what the outcome of an event or conflict in a story will be. A savvy author will create suspense by keeping the reader guessing as to what will happen next. As the great Alfred Hitchcock once said, “Suspense is the state of waiting for something to happen.” A mystery story reveals the major crime or event, followed by the protagonist solving the mystery of the who, why, and how of it. A suspense story delivers twists and turns before showing the crime or event later, thus eliciting a feeling of suspense in the reader. The enemy of suspense is predictability, which should be avoided when constructing the plot. Many authors are able to create a blend of suspense and mystery in their stories, thus providing a reliable way to keep their reader’s interest.

Foreshadowing is a way of preparing the reader for the climax of the story. By leaving well-placed clues in the plot and not giving away any answers, the author can make the mystery in his book even more enticing. Foreshadowing can be used as a tie-in to a mystery as it builds anticipation in the reader. An indication for the occurrence of future events, foreshadowing is a valuable tool for any writer.

Imagination can be a horror author’s best friend when used to construct the events, characters, situations, and storyline of a book. The reader can also draw upon their imagination as they conjure up images and visions of what they’ve read.  When used synergistically, fear, mystery, and imagination are crucial to any good horror story. If the reader can imagine himself as a character in a story, then the author has succeeded in his endeavors. “Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.” – Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

Given that the human imagination knows no limits, a cornucopia of scary characters have been created throughout time, including monsters, demons, and ghosts, just to mention a few. The genres of horror, science fiction, and fantasy are usually based on fear and imagination, which is why they often overlap each other. A well-written horror novel can uncover a reader’s hidden anxiety or deepest nightmare—the more mysterious the antagonist, the more effective the horror. Adding mystery to horror not only makes for a more interesting story, but it also heightens the fear. Horror authors know that keeping the narrative terrifying is a must for any tale of horror.

G.A. Minton

G.A. Minton

From his early childhood, G.A. Minton has always been a diehard fan of science fiction and horror. Whenever a scary movie was playing down at the local theater, he was there in attendance with his friends, loudly screaming in terror alongside them. G.A. enjoys many hobbies, but the game of golf is one of his favorites, having lettered on his high school golf team. Besides writing, he also enjoys reading, traveling, fishing, swimming, snorkeling, working out, listening to hard rock music, and watching great movies—especially those genres that encompass horror, science fiction, mystery, and comedy.

Strangely enough, it was only after G.A. was rear-ended by a drunk driver and suffered a closed-head injury that he developed a newfound passion for writing (even though this story has the makings for a bizarre Stephen King horror novel, it is nonetheless true). After numerous visits to a neurologist and months of taking medication used by patients afflicted with  Alzheimer’s Disease, his injured brain slowly began to mend itself. When the damage to his brain finally healed, G.A. noticed something very different in his thought patterns. Now, there was an overwhelming urge, a compulsive drive to put on paper fascinating stories that had formed de novo in his mind. That’s how Trisomy XXI, his first novel and recipient of multiple awards, was born. One could surmise that the damaged neurons in G.A.’s frontal cortex had rearranged themselves into a different pattern, thereby enhancing the creative elements in his brain (a rare medical condition, known as “acquired savant syndrome”). God only knows… stranger things have happened! G.A. is now referred to as “the savant horror writer” by many of his friends.

G.A. has recently completed his second novel, Antitheus, a dark supernatural tale of horror that takes Good vs. Evil to a whole new level. Currently, his brain is busy at work, meticulously processing the text for another story of the macabre that will both entertain and horrify its unsuspecting reader. One of G.A.’s trademarks is that his stories contain an O. Henry or Rod Serling surprise ending that would baffle even the likes of the great Sherlock Holmes! G.A. lives in Texas with his wife, a son and daughter, and two Bengal cats named Phinneas and Shamus.

 

You can find out more information about G.A. Minton and his books at:

G.A. Minton Author Website: https://www.gaminton.com

G.A. Minton Author Webpage at World Castle Publishing Website: http://www.worldcastlepublishing.com/author_g_a_minton.html

Goodreads author page for G.A. Minton: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15065482.G_A_Minton

ANTITHEUS by G.A. Minton on Amazon: www.amzn.com/B0744XJ11K (Kindle), www.amzn.com/1629897620 (Paperback), or www.amzn.com/1629897647 (Hardcover).

TRISOMY XXI by G.A. Minton on Amazon: www.amzn.com/1629894443 (Paperback), or www.amzn.com/B01D3OSZ38 (Kindle).

G.A. Minton Facebook Pages: https://www.facebook.com/TRISOMYXXI and

https://www.facebook.com/GAMinton

 

G.A. Minton Twitter Page: https://twitter.com/horrornovelist

 

Barnes & Noble link for ANTITHEUS:

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/antitheus-g-a-minton/1126827593?ean=9781629897622

 

Barnes & Noble link for TRISOMY XXI:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/trisomy-xxi-g-a-minton/1123520769?ean=9781629894447

 

ANTITHEUS Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/71HtB1dHyZY

TRISOMY XXI Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AlcJvtdThMo

The Horror Tree Presents… An Interview with Terence Hannum

Alyson –  Hi Terence and welcome to the Horror Tree.  Can you tell us a little about yourself? Your creative origins as it were?

 

Terence – Thanks, I live in Baltimore and am a visual artist, musician and writer. My visual art uses collages of cassette tapes to make decaying abstracted patterns. I play in the experimental-metal band Locrian, they’re on Relapse Records, as well as in the shoegaze-synthpop band The Holy Circle, and my solo material is more ambient. And I write fiction and about visual art.

 

My creative origins, really I was always making music and art, I wrote a lot when I was young and did theatre. I went to college for Religion and Philosophy with the plan to be a pastor but realized it wasn’t for me, and focused a lot on visual art. Then I went to graduate school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for painting and drawing and started writing art criticism, exhibiting my art, making music and teaching. I hadn’t really thought about writing fiction until maybe 7-8 years ago when I had this potent dream that became my first novella “Beneath the Remains.”

 

Alyson –  How much does living in Baltimore, USA influence/inspire your work?

 

Terence – Depends on the story really, only a few pieces of short fiction have been published about the area, like short story “Vanish on the Instant”. I’m probably more influenced by suburbia and sprawl than say the city. That said, it’s a great city, Atomic Books is a refuge of a bookshop. I have a novel, “Lower Heaven”, I’m editing to get ready to submit that deals a lot with suburban living near Baltimore, it’s more about surveillance and religion that was really inspired by this giant surveillance blimp that was in a county nearby to Baltimore. And a few more stories percolating.

 

Alyson –  Is there a book that changed your life? Which book do you wish you’d written?

 

Terence – Oh for sure, two actually. One is when I was young I told my mom that I liked horror movies and we watched the James Whale Frankenstein and my mother encouraged me to read Mary Shelley’s novel. I was probably in fifth grade and I just saw it as a monster story, I think she asked me a question about it, and I didn’t know what she was talking about so she told me to read it again. I reluctantly did and started to see other things emerge from it and as I grew up it became so much bigger with all these layers. Second, in high-school in Florida, I had to read Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God” and I remember just being floored and thinking it was so visual and evocative. It made me probably more intimidated to write, I held it up as a standard.

 

I think about Cormac McCarthy’s “Child of God” as one I wish I wrote, it’s so simple, it has its own vocabulary, it’s terrifying and has these layers of meaning.

 

Alyson –  Which horror/ sci-fi writers have influenced your work?

 

Terence – JG Ballard was a massive influence on me, to think of our society and find meaning in banal things like the shopping mall, cars, or highways, to use them as lenses to say something larger. Samuel Delaney had a huge effect on me, sexuality as a territory for science fiction, or to blur those lines of sci-fi. In horror, writers like T.E.D. Klein, Shirley Jackson, Henry James, Jeremias Gotthelf’s “The Black Spider” really influenced me.

 

Alyson –  Writing is only one of your creative outlets; I’m struck by how diverse the outlets are for your creativity- you’re a visual artist, a musician/performer, a D.J. Do these threads overlap? Feed into each other?

 

Terence – For sure, or one can act as a reprieve while another idea gestates. I try and divide up my time to think and work on projects but sometimes a deadline demands more focus, but often times I’ll be playing music and think of a weird scenario and realize it’s a good beginning for a story. Or be writing and think about something for my visual art.

 

Alyson –  Is your music more dominant than your visual art or than your writing? Or do you juggle them all evenly? How do you prioritize?

 

Terence – I try and have a certain schedule just in case. Days of writing, or being in the studio, or recording. But I let it be flexible unless I’m recording a record or have an editing deadline. I work well with deadlines.

 

Alyson –  Do you have a dedicated space you create in?

 

Terence – Yes, I have a studio that is where most of my art gets made and music too, it’s pretty evenly divided. I tend to write anywhere though, typically at night, but all day I take notes about characters or settings, little things that at about midnight will bug me enough to dive in and work on a story.

 

Alyson –  How much research do you do for your (writing) projects?

 

Terence – Quite a bit initially, I save a lot of articles, find books, videos online, interviews, and then start taking what I need to hang on to, to make some portions real. I read a lot of non-fiction and journalism. But when I write all that is just background. I tend to know what I want, but it helps. Also, I just talk to people, cops, reporters, whoever, I ask them questions and listen. Maybe take some notes, I like vocabulary, so hearing certain words can clue you into class, or professions and really help anchor what you need.

 

Alyson –  As I’m a keen fan of horror films (modern and Golden Age) I want to ask you about your Dead Air column for the Horror Writers Association newsletter, which focuses on horror movie soundtracks and the radio show you broadcast at Halloween? How did this link up come about? Which are your favourite soundtracks?

 

Terence – Well I am a horror movie obsessive since I was young, but in all my bands I play synthesizers and realized my instrument was really inspired by John Carpenter scores and Goblin and their scores for Argento films like Deep Red and Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and Wendy Carlos Williams score for The Shining. So, I was inspired by that era from the 70s to 80s and the use of synthesizers. Before the whole vinyl reissue craze on Death Waltz/Mondo, Waxworks, etc. I used to collect these import CDs and get obsessed about Fabio Frizzi and what not, so I started DJ-ing soundtracks for an annual radio show, now on WLOY, and people seem to enjoy it. I mix it up with classics; Halloween to more obscure like Brad Fiedel’s score for Just Before Dawn and new pieces like Michael Abel’s score for Get Out.

 

My favorite soundtracks; Texas Chainsaw Massacre by Wayne Bell and Tobe Hooper is essential, it has never been released as a record either, Fabio Frizzi’s score for Fulci’s The Beyond is great, Klaus Schulze’s score for Angst, and The Shining, Dawn of the Dead, and Coil’s original score for Hellraiser.

 

 

Alyson – Do you watch many horror films? Indie or mainstream? Can you tell us some of your faves?

 

Terence – I do, I watch a lot, all over the map from quality and era. That said, I think we’ve entered a neat period where you have films like Get Out, It Follows, Under the Skin, Babadook, It Comes at Night that to me really are reviving good, smart horror. But this allows us to rediscover things like The Innocents, The Burning or Angst. So my favorites are Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dawn of the Dead, Angst, The Innocents, The Shining, Carnival of Souls, The Beyond, Suspiria, Last House on Dead End Street, The Babadook, The Vanishing, The Thing from Another World, Halloween, I could go on.

 

Alyson –  In 2016 your novella ‘Beneath the Remains’ was published by Anathemata; (available to buy on Amazon) Is it noir? Or horror? Of a mix of both?

 

Terence – I like blurred boundaries when I started writing, Beneath the Remains was more a coming-of-age story, but dark. It took on the noir and mystery elements as it went on through the landscape of south-west Florida in the early 1990s. And the outside character of death metal, I really wanted to juxtapose this sunny paradise with brutal gory lyrics and a kind of pathetic loss. So I let it be, I think its horror with a lower case “h” and a mix of southern-noir. But at its core, it is about a missing brother and this younger brother trying to figure out who he is after his brother disappears – so it has that coming-of-age part at its core with details in those other genres.

 

The physical book of “Beneath the Remains” is still available too;

http://anathemataeditions.bigcartel.com/product/terence-hannum-beneath-the-remains-novella

 

 

Alyson –  Can you tell us about your new novella “All Internal” which is available to pre-order in April from Dynatox Ministries?

 

Terence – “All Internal” really evolved out of my background in philosophy and this idea of the mind-body-problem, which is about the relationship between the mind and consciousness and the body. Is the only one? Which one? Is there communication between the two? Do other minds exist? Anyway, I have this love of horror sci-fi films like Inseminoid and Forbidden World, The Brood, and I wanted to make a critique of the mind-body-problem in philosophy by way of a body-horror story. It involves a woman in the amateur porn industry around south Florida as a parasitic entity takes over her body, and eventually the narrative, driving her body to replicate and exterminate.

 

Alyson –  What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Terence – It’s a marathon and not a sprint. Take time to listen to the people who read what you create. Reading isn’t like looking at art or listening to music, or watching a film, it takes more time, and, if you are actually saying something, people may want to think about it. So be patient and write well. I’m a big fan of the Surrealists and they were right to keep track of their dreams, to use automatic writing, to collage a story from newspapers, use these tools to find new roads. Don’t be afraid to edit. Ask a lot of questions, and, most importantly, write well.

Alyson –  Where can readers follow you online?

@TerenceHannum / www.terencehannum.com

Here are 2 links to short stories by Terence Hannum to read online:-

https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/xyg5nd/the-void

Vanish on the Instant

You can pre-order the upcoming novella ‘All Internal’ right here!

Guest Post: Block Head: Getting Past Writer’s Block

Block Head: Getting Past Writer’s Block

By Kevin Holton

Almost every writer has faced the horror of attempting to continue (or start) a story, only to realize the words aren’t flowing. It’s a nightmare, even for those who write the most disturbing, tormented content, and the stress of not being able to do what you love can really eat away at even the most stoic ego. This goes double if you’ve got deadlines coming up.

I’ve been writing for nearly ten years now, amassing just shy of 100 short story publications, with one novel out and three more, plus a collection, on the way. Needless to say, I know a thing or two about overcoming those blocks. Hopefully these tips help you in your quest toward immortality and infinite riches. Or, falling short of this, enough income from writing to offset the cost of seeing Infinity War in Imax.

Get to know your story

Overwhelmingly, the number one time I’ve hit a mental obstruction is because what I’m writing isn’t making sense. Maybe the scene involves someone acting out-of-character, like a helicopter parent forgetting a child at the supermarket without any causative distraction. This could be from a plot point missing the story’s arc, like the introduction of somebody’s sibling to save the day when that sibling hasn’t been mentioned at all.

Writing is an immensely subconscious activity, so your brain knows when you’re trying to consciously drive the tale in the wrong direction. When that happens, that subtle, suggestive part might hit the brakes to make you reflect on what you’ve done. Human brains are built to reflect on, understand, and eliminate flawed or nonsensical behavior, so if what you’ve written isn’t logical for the plot/place/person, take a look at what you’ve already written for a hint on how to continue.

Challenge yourself

There’s a chance you can’t write because you’re bored. Seriously. Change genres, write about a character in a situation you have no knowledge of, like being orphaned, or addicted to drugs, or as a sex worker, or whatever. Take an established character and write a quick, for-your-eyes-only ditty about that person in that situation. Doctor Frankenstein as a young black woman, for instance. Dracula, the Gigolo. Tracer, from Overwatch, if she used superspeed for evil. A sociopath in a Saw game outsmarting the traps because many of them had clear flaws that would’ve made them easy to survive, if people paid attention and stopped freaking out.

Keep in mind, you can’t publish fan fiction. That’s copyright violation. This is just a ‘break out of the box’ exercise.

Take it easy on yourself

Lots of people freak out and shut down if they have too much on their plate. That’s fine. You’re allowed to be human, you’re allowed to be stressed, and you’re allowed to take a day off if that R+R gets your head on straight. I recommend making a list of things you want/need to do, and keeping yourself to three tasks a day, whatever it takes. “Write 2,000 words, go to work, cook dinner” might be one day, followed by, “Write 2,000 words, go to work, do chores (vacuum, laundry, dust fans),” and so on. Also, don’t think of activities as ‘must do,’ and they’ll be easier. If you love writing, you can take it off the to-do list, because you’ll want to do it anyway. Love working out? Don’t include the gym in your ‘obligations.’ Then your day might look like, “Pay bills, go to work, run errands on the way home,” even though you’re writing before you pay the bills, and hitting the gym before the errands. Life’s all about perception.

Exercise

Joyce Carol Oates is a huge fan of daily walks, as is Stephen King. Getting your blood flowing is a proven way to increase thinking speed, information processing, creativity, and even intelligence. Wrath James White still runs and hits the gym to lift weights, though that’s not surprising, since he spent years as a professional fighter in several disciplines. I’m personally a fan of yoga, as contrarian as that may seem for a horror writer, because the inverted positions like Down Dog send blood right to your head.

Cut down on the coffee

Go ahead. Burn me at the stake right now for saying it, but you can’t think your ideas through it you’re jittery and bouncing off the walls. That extra cup of joe isn’t going to get anything flowing but your bladder, so just keep on with your regular intake. Cutting caffeine might impair your writing too, though, so keep that in mind. Try a nice herbal tea if you’re in need of a warm drink to keep you seated. Mint tea is, empirically, the best tea, because its name is also describing its flavor. (Mint tea is mint-y.)

And lastly…

Write every swear word you know

I can’t explain why, but if I lose my train of thought midsentence, or can’t figure out what to say next, an all-caps F***! does the trick. Just remember to delete it afterwards. You do not want to see what happened to my seminar paper last year…

There are, of course, more ways to beat writer’s block, but those are my favorites. In a few words, they boil down to this: be mindful of what’s important to you, and make sure you view pursuing your passions/taking care of yourself as opportunities, or blessings, or rewards for good time management, i.e. “I get to write today because I remembered to do the errands yesterday.” Whatever wording gets you going. When all else fails, shake it up. Get the blood flowing, literally or metaphorically, with a change of pace (pun obviously intended).

One last piece of advice, actually: get a bookshelf with everything you’ve written on it. It’s very easy to inspire yourself to keep going when you can look at how far you’ve already come.

Kevin Holton

Kevin Holton is the author of At the Hands of Madnessas well as the forthcoming titles The Nightmare King and These Walls Don’t Talk, They Scream. He also co-wrote the short film Human Report 85616, and his short work has appeared in dozens of anthologies.

He can be found at www.KevinHolton.com, or on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram @TheHoltoning.

The Horror Tree Presents… An Interview with Denise Agnew

Derek – I feel it would be great to start with how did you get into writing horror?
Denise: I’ve always been interested in the paranormal and have read horror/spooky stories since I was a little kid. As a romance writer, I frequently wrote paranormal elements into my stories. About two years ago I decided I wanted to make the leap to writing more horror pieces.

Derek – Is there something that appeals to your nature in the horror genre, is it the monsters, the magic, or the mixture of adding martial arts to horror?
Denise: For me, I think it works like an exorcism. I believe many horror authors have personal demons to destroy, and the horror stories help me express either things I see in my own life or in the world in general. A sort of twisted way to present the truth.

Derek – Alright, so when did you first get published and can you tell us a bit about that experience?
Denise: I’ve been published since 1999, but my first horror piece came out in 2016.

Derek – At this time how many stories do you have published and where can our readers find them?
Denise: I’ve had about 67 novels, novellas and short stories published, although not all of them are available for purchase at this time. Head over to my web page to get the latest details. I’m at deniseagnew.com

Derek – Where do you find your inspiration for your stories?
Denise: Ah, the age-old question. My inspiration comes from everywhere. I once got the inspiration for two horror stories from walking my dog in my neighborhood. This one house creeped me out and a horror/sci-fi novel came from that and later on a separate novella.

Derek – When did you first know that you were going to be a writer?
Denise: When I first tried to write a sci-fi short story when I was fourteen. I was hooked after that.

Derek – As you continue on in your career is there a point where you can look back and say yeah that is the moment that I knew that I was going to make it?
Denise: Actually, I don’t think I ever had that experience. 🙂

Derek – When did you first start writing?
Denise: When I was fourteen.

Derek – What has been your most favorite project to work on, so far?
Denise: Oh man, that’s REALLY difficult. If we’re talking horror, probably a novella I just finished that is set in the 1930’s. In historical romance, my story set in Roman Britain is probably one of my favorites.

Derek – How do you find time to balance your personal life and writing?
Denise: I write full time, so I’m very fortunate to schedule most of my just how I want it. If I write first thing in the morning after breakfast and the hubby has gone off to work…that’s the best and most productive writing time for me.

Derek – Alright so without giving too much away, what projects are you working on currently?
Denise: I’m working on two horror novella/short story collections and also a horror screenplay with one of my production company partners.

Derek – Please tell our readers who some of your favorite authors and why?
Denise: Dean Koontz is one of my favorites. I love the variety he puts into his work. He’s never been afraid of going in many different directions. I also love his strong female characters and his ability with suspense. Stephen King is another favorite. His complex characters and ability to scare the pants off someone…priceless.

Derek – Do you feel that your style is related to the authors that you read?
Denise: Not really. I think I’ve found my own voice.

Derek – Do you use beta readers, can you tell us how that experience has been for you?  Does it help?
Denise: I definitely use beta readers. I utilize two to three readers on every story. It has definitely helped me.

Derek – Where can our readers get in touch with you if they want to become a beta reader for you?
Denise: I’m not taking on any new beta readers at this time.

Derek – Where can our readers follow you on your amazing journey?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/denise.a.agnew

Author Webpage: www.deniseagnew.com
Any other links: www.whereslucyproductions.com

Derek – So, a question I ask everyone – if you could be any animal, what animal would it be and why?
Denise: Wolf. It’s my totem animal, and I’ve always been an admirer of wolves. They’re amazing and intelligent creatures. I’ve always been drawn to them.

Derek – Thank you so much for your time.  It has been such a pleasure working thus far. I am excited to see what you come up with next.  I am really looking forward to following you and your career path.  I see great things in the future for you.

5 Places To Make Money Writing When You Need A Break From Fiction Part 1

Horror Tree was initially started just as a listing for open horror calls. We’ve since grown to include all areas of speculative fiction as well as columns on writing. Now, we’re trying something new.

I know what you’re thinking…

Change is scary. However, we’re not changing our format or main goal. We’ve already changed it from horror anthologies to growing your writing career. Now we’re just giving you new outlets for your writing. Included in these articles will be online and print publications that are open to submissions.

PAYING submissions.

These will usually fall into the non-fiction category and hopefully, something here will spark your interest!

Hello!

Welcome to our first installment of this Top 5 round-up that will offer potential new markets to send your work into. These will be various online and physical outlets that continually seek new content and are willing to pay for it that doesn’t fall into the fiction calls which we usually share.

Each of these posts will have a mixture of outlets and hopefully will have something that is up your alley.

  1. Narratively – The website “is devoted to original and untold human stories, delivered in the most appropriate format for each piece, from writing to short documentary films, photo essays, audio stories and comics journalism. We are always interested in adding new, diverse voices to the mix and we pay for stories.” Pay rates vary though they do market themselves as offering competitive rates. You can find all of the details at http://narrative.ly’s submission page!
  2. Parents – One of the largest parenting magazines available. They are open for a large variety of stories for parents of children at any age. Payment varies per author. You can find the submissions guidelines right here.
  3. Spirituality & Health – The 20-year-old magazine has a focus on help and spirituality though are open-ended as to what both of those mean. Payment is said to be per word and maxes at $200 an article. An old posting has it listed at $1.33 per word which may or may not be accurate. You can check out the full guidelines right here.
  4. Whole Life Times – What is it all about? They describe themselves as “a bimonthly magazine serving the worldwide holistic community, relies almost entirely on freelancers to fill its pages every month. We have only a few regulars, so the field is wide open. We depend on freelancers like you.” The topics range from food to health to spirituality and more. The main magazine has a pay range from $75–150; they also have departments and columns with varying pay that you can check in the guidelines. You can find the details for Whole Life Times right here!
  5. VQR – We’re being a bit lenient with this last one as they take fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. It isn’t entirely off base compared to what you’d usually see on the site. The company “strives to publish the best writing we can find.” They take all forms of poetry, non-speculative fiction, and nonfiction that covers “literary, art, and cultural criticism; reportage; historical and political analysis; and travel essays.” Pay ranges are included in the site and run at $200 per poem, generally over $1000 for short fiction, and non-fiction clocking in at generally over $1000 outside of book reviews which are at about $500. Online content ends up being a bit lower. You can find VQR’s submission guidelines here!

Thanks for checking out our first list of paying markets and hopefully one of these will be of interest to you!

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