Category: Guest Post

What Happens “When A Pantser Plots”?


By Mark Allan Gunnells


You may have heard it said that writers tend to fall into two categories: Plotters (the ones who do detailed outlines before writing the first word) and Pantsers (the ones who don’t outline but “fly by the seat of their pants,” discovering the story as they go). I don’t know if it’s always such a strict dichotomy, there can be a mix of the two, but for me personally, I’ve always been a pantser.


It’s not that I go in totally blind. I usually have a vague idea of where I’m going, but no real map of how I’m going to get there. And then sometimes I don’t get there at all and the story ends up somewhere completely different than I originally thought. I find storytelling more an act of discovery than strict creation, and that thrills me.


However, with my new novel Before He Wakes, I ventured more into plotter territory. I actually sat down and drafted an outline before I started the first chapter. For this particular story, I felt I had to. You see, Before He Wakes is an obstacle novel (I’m not sure that’s a real term, I may have coined it), in which the characters have to overcome a series of obstacles to obtain their goal. Because of this, I felt it was very important that I know beforehand what obstacles they would encounter and exactly how they would get through them. I didn’t want to get halfway through and discover I’d gotten them into a situation from which they couldn’t possibly escape.


So I did a chapter-by-chapter outline, which meant during the entire writing process, I knew exactly what was coming next.


Sort of.


I couldn’t completely give up my pantser ways, so even within the outline I built in the freedom to explore and discover. Yes, I knew each obstacle and its solution, but some parts of the outline were very loose. For instance, for chapter eleven, my outline merely said, “Meet Clare’s parents.” I didn’t know exactly who these people were or even what they would be doing in the chapter, so when I got to chapter eleven, I knew it would deal with Clare’s parents, but I still had the fun of going in relatively blind and letting that develop as I actually wrote it. I had several chapters with that kind of freedom built in. So even in my plotting, I got to do a little pantsing. 


It was actually a joyous experience doing it differently. I’ll probably always be primarily a pantser, but I respect plotters. And I celebrate the fact that there is no one way to do this, and any path that gets you closer to the story you want to tell is the right path.


Does the Horror Genre have Cultural Value? 3 Reasons Why the Answer is Yes

Does the Horror Genre have Cultural Value? 3 Reasons Why the Answer is Yes


The horror genre has existed for as long as films have captured the imagination of generations. Before horror movies, there were horror books, and before books there were horror stories. The feeling of terror, the sensation of fear, and the jumpy feeling your heart gets when something happens in a horror movie have always been eaten up by the general population. However, for a long time, the horror genre was considered incredibly taboo. Whether this was to do with the traditional beliefs of the times, the religious basis thought which aligned the horror genre with sin and Satan, or just a generic dislike of the genre; I do not know. Many people think that horror is unimaginative and simply based on scaring people and nothing else; usually assuming a weak storyline or sub-par acting. Here are three reasons (of the many that there are), that the horror genre holds an important cultural power and stands in good stead amongst its genre competitors. 


1: Its Cathartic Nature as a Genre

Guest Post: Dreadfully Comforting: Finding Solace in Horror

Dreadfully Comforting: Finding Solace in Horror


This past year has been my horror homecoming. I took a deep dive into Hannibal and The Haunting of Bly Manor; in my reading, even when I turned to romance, the pieces I picked up had thorns, darkness, and deceit. The bodies piling up in the news tumbled into my writing. Many of the guests I’ve spoken with on my podcast in these grief- and panic-ridden times have expressed the same thing. Art–particularly fantasy and science fiction–is typically seen as escapism. So why, when we tear ourselves away from doomscrolling through horrifying headlines, do we descend into a different darkness?

Horror is an honest genre. It pulls no punches about our likelihood to survive, or what could happen to us. Some tropes might lead us to believe that if we don’t sneak off into the woods with that blonde we’ll make it to the second act, but more often than not we’re just as doomed. When we’re bombarded with reminders of how dangerous our world is, how uncertain our futures are, escaping into a perfect world can feel unrealistic. Our suspension of disbelief breaks. As a reader and creator, there is freedom and peace in knowing nothing is certain, and it’s a relief to enter a world that doesn’t lie to us. (more…)

11 Movies You Didn’t Know Were Book Adaptations

Famous movies leave an imprint in the audience for its superb plot and impeccable lines. There are movies that live with us with these memorable lines, only to find out that the great plot is from a book. 

Although some of these books are living in the shadow of the film, it is worthy to mention how the pages of the novel have come to life through these screen adaptations. Here are some movies you didn’t know were based on books.

1. Die Hard


Guest Post: Cosmic Restoration Blues



I’ve never written an article about restoring and publishing a “Lost” novel. There’s a reason. I’ve never participated in a project like this before.

A couple of months ago, a friend of mine, Michael Tierney, publisher of “Edgar Rice Burroughs 100 Year Art Chronology,” posted the cover illustration of a 1917 issue of “All-Story Magazine.” The illustration by Fred W. Small was for the first installment of “Cosmic Courtship,” a novel by Julian Hawthorne, the son of Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of “Tanglewood Tales’ and “The Scarlet Letter.”

I was intrigued and tried to find a copy of the novel to read. I contacted Michael for help. We discovered that the novel had never seen print since its appearance in the now crumbling pages of 104 year old pulp magazine, where it had been serialized in four consecutive issues.

A little correspondence back and forth and we decided to save the novel by publishing it in book form for the first time. We partnered with ‘Alex’ P. Alexander, publisher of Cirsova Magazine and divided up responsibilities. Alex had previously restored and published the John Stark novels and stories by Leigh Brackett.

So here are the steps we took and the lessons we learned – presented in an order that hopefully make sense to the reader.

Obtain Rights: In this case, the novel, ‘Cosmic Courtship,” was in the public domain. Be sure that you have rights before you proceed. Don’t do the work for nothing. Verification of public domain availability can be complicated. I am not an attorney; I only watch them on TV, and therefore, make no recommendations about this step. Just simple advice – do your homework. Here’s a link that discusses this issue:,domain%20because%20of%20old%20age.

If the work isn’t in public domain, find out who owns the rights, contact them, and hope for the best.

Orange City Book Tour: How‌ ‌to‌ ‌Avoid‌ ‌the‌ ‌Rejection‌ ‌Blues‌

How to Avoid the Rejection Blues

Rejection and being an author go hand in hand. Fiction is very subjective so what one person may like, another may hate. I have had two novels published, one by the indie press, New Pulp Press, and the other by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s; but before that, I had three novels rejected over the course of a few years and a lot of rejections from agents before I landed with Sam Hiyate of The Rights Factory. There were many times I thought I wouldn’t make it as an author, but I’m stubbornly determined and driven, and I used the rejections to make my writing better so I wouldn’t be rejected the next time. 

The first set of rejections came from literary magazines until a few finally hit. Lit mags are a very smart way to start as a career as an author, since agents and editors and publishers will want to see some type of publications on your Writing Resume. It is guaranteed that more magazines will say no as opposed to yes. However, once one magazine accepts your work, you have a greater chance of getting another to bite, since you are beginning to establish yourself. The idea that you will be published in The New Yorker automatically will not happen, so forget about that. Begin with online journals and don’t worry about not getting paid, the exposure, even if it’s small, is better than a check. 

The same goes for agents. Most agents will reject you because they are flooded with submissions. They also want to shape a writer’s career so they want to believe in you rather than just your one book. Have a follow up ready. More importantly, take the advice that they give if you’re lucky to get notes. My agent liked the book I initially sent him, but had a lot of revisions before he could sign me on. I listened to everything he said. 

WiHM 12: Scratching the Surface: Skin that Inspires Horror by: Aliya Whiteley

At first, he’s relaxed. He helps himself to food from the fridge; it’s going to be a long night. He’s there to watch for ghostly activity – the signs of spirits at work. Sounds ridiculous.

 He finds a chicken leg. Tasty. Then he decides to cook a juicy steak. Finds a frying pan. Puts it on the hob to heat up. 

The steak, on the counter, moves. 

WiHM 12: The Humor of Horror

The Humor of Horror

By: Kathrin Hutson


This may seem like a bit of an odd place to start, writing about humor and horror at the same time. I am, however, a huge fan of dichotomies and turning tropes on their heads. The last time I had the privilege of writing for The Horror Tree, I did very much the same thing—comparing the darkness and intensity of what I write with the upbeat, light-filled, perfectly happy person I am in my daily life. There’s a balance that has to be maintained when we’re writing anything, especially a genre like horror or any dark fiction that has a propensity for sucking us down into unexplored emotional territory (oftentimes intentionally unexplored). 

This balance with the humor of horror appears in the actual writing or creating of any dark, grueling, terrifying work of art, no matter the medium.