Book Review: Writing in the Dark by Tim Waggoner

The Best of How-to-Write Horror

I’ve read a ton of how-to-write-fiction books including a number of texts on writing horror, but Tim Waggoner’s Writing in the Dark is the best of them all.

Writing in the Dark by Tim WaggonerIt opens with an intro by Tom Monteleone of Borderlands fame demonstrating why Waggoner is qualified to write the book. He’s a prolific writer of both horror/dark fantasy and media tie-ins. In the preface, Waggoner reveals why he writes horror. We’re of roughly the same age, and his journey in many ways mirrors mine. (It’s great to meet a new member of the Horror Family. Weirdos unite!)

He progresses through chapters such as “Why Horror Matters” and “Things Unknown” and turns a corner with “Everything You Know Is Wrong.” He covers various subgenres of horror, generating unique ideas for stories, and building one-of-a-kind monsters. I especially enjoyed the chapters “The Horror Hero’s Journey” (Poor Bastard’s Descent into Hell) and the importance of including an emotional core relayed through immersive POV.

Every chapter is insightful, helpful, and entertaining. Each ends with exercises to enable eager writers to implement what they’ve just learned as well as three or four “voices from the shadows”—accomplished horror writers—who discuss what makes good horror and best advice for beginning writers.

Waggoner teaches college-level writing, so you’re getting a college course in a book. I love to study, so I consider it a textbook that’s also a tasty morsel of how-to darkness.

My rating is 4.6 stars. The book lost a few tenths because the type is so small. As I read through, I was hoping for a workbook that expanded the exercises. Well, Guide Dog Books/Raw Dog Screaming Press recently announced a companion workbook is coming, so I’m excited about that. I’ll be buying it, too, when it comes out. But I hope the type is a little bigger for those like me over fifty.

I can’t recommend this text highly enough. Whether you’re a beginning, intermediate, or advanced horror writer, you’ll get something useful to take your writing to the next horrific level.

Follow Tim Waggoner on Twitter @TimWaggoner. Check out his website at http://www.timwaggoner.com/.

Interview: Corey Farrenkopf, Horror Writer

Corey Farrenkopf is a thirteenth-generation Cape Codder. His family has been around since most of the towns were colonized along the peninsula (it’s the arm that sticks off the end of Massachusetts into the Atlantic). “Most of what I write is set in nearby coastal towns,” Farrenkopf says, “so my place of origin very much makes its way into my writing.”

Corey Farrenkopf

He’s been writing seriously for about ten years, publishing for the last seven. “I’m usually drawn to supernatural horror, weird fiction, dark fantasy, quiet horror, and literary fiction with a dark bend to it. Most of my stuff is pretty fluid between all of those, which makes it difficult to say exactly what I’m writing at any given time.” He also dabbles in dark sci-fi and light fantasy from time to time.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I’ve always been compelled to create. When I was young, I’d tell stories and draw very terribly articulated monsters.

Then I played a lot of music in my teen years, mostly punk and indie stuff with different bands, while still dabbling with writing. But in college I really committed to writing, recognizing that in order to be happy I had to be creating and writing. It was what I was best at and enjoyed the most, so it won out over music. I’d given up drawing way before that point. You can only draw the same terrible dragon a thousand times before you get tired of it (I mean this fairly literally, I’d draw the same dragon endlessly in middle school, so I’m glad I moved away from that.)

What books have most influenced your life?

There are definitely a handful of books that have very much steered my writing course. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Marquez and Collected Fictions of Jorge Luis Borges were both important early on, along with Pastoralia by George Saunders, Saint Lucy’s Home for Girl’s Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell, and all of Poe’s short stories. Probably the two most important books for my writing, though, as far as what’s brought me to what I write today, are Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer and A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay.

I studied creative writing as an undergrad. My professors weren’t into genre fiction, so I didn’t get exposed to as much as I should have, and the stuff I wrote was always somewhere between realism and the weird, so I never really found my place on the literary spectrum until I read those two books. They showed me where I fit in, where the type of writing I always wanted to do could go… and that there are a ton of awesome writers writing in a similar vein.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I don’t know if I can say I have a favorite author, but the first three that come to mind are Karen Russell, Laird Barron, and Caitlin R. Kiernan. As far as what strikes me about their work…

Karen Russell has the best sentences, character descriptions, and humor out of any writer I know. There’s a line in her story, Bog People, that describes the main character’s uncle as the kind of guy who would, “eat the sticker on a green apple rather than peel it off.” I think that’s the most beautiful and hilarious way of saying someone is lazy.

Laird Barron just kills it in every story. His ability to write about nature is second to none, and the darker imagery he creates never leaves you. I think about the horse scene in Hallucigenia way more often than is healthy. I also love how so much of what he does plays with structure and blends the best parts of so many genres together.

Caitlin R. Kiernan also kills it in every story. I think I can apply much of what I love about Laird’s work to what Kiernan does. In addition, they do such an amazing job at creating shared worlds for their stories. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do in my own work. I’m thinking about the four stories that make up The Dandridge Cycle, or Jacova Angevine showing up across short stories and novels, or their linked Tinfoil Dossier novellas. Also, everyone needs to read Houses Under The Sea—it’s very necessary.

Do you write every single day? What’s your writing routine like?

COVID has made my usual routine a little weird, but I generally get some words down every day. I usually shoot to write between 1000 and 2000 words a day. I don’t have a specific time when I write. Just when I can. I snatch an hour here or there, write on my lunch break, write before bed… basically whenever I can.

I’ve gotten in the habit of starting off by editing whatever I wrote the day before and then jumping into drafting to make sure my voice stays consistent. (And to save myself from having to do that first horrible straighten-every-terrible-sentence edit like I used to.)

What do you think is more important: characters or plot?

I’ve always been a plot guy, which has actually been a challenge for my own writing. I love plotting, but the most common feedback I get usually focuses on a desire to have a more rounded/likable character (at least in my novels). So I think the true answer is character is more important. If the character is good enough, the plot should come along fine.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in writing one of your stories?

I was writing a story on an island off of Cape Cod, doing an eco-horror sort of thing, when I stumbled on the fact there was a bunch of unsolved murders out there. I was originally just trying to write about bird populations, but that fact really swayed the direction of the story. I’m still working on it, so we’ll see how it turns out in the end. A murderer who loves bird watching maybe…?

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

I hear from my readers through Twitter pretty frequently. I have many friends in both the horror community and the flash fiction community, so I think we all pretty much read each others’ work and get excited about what everyone else is doing and try to be as supportive as possible.

How active are you on social media? And how do you think it affects the way you write?

On Twitter, very. Everywhere else, so-so.

I don’t know if Twitter has helped my writing, but it has enabled me to find so many publishing opportunities that I never would have seen before. All the open calls that get posted there, or announcements for flash contests or guests editors… I would have missed so many opportunities if I wasn’t tuned in. Also, a lot of my Twitter friends are super supportive, so it makes writing feel much less lonely with all of them metaphorically around.

Has COVID affected your writing routine this year? If so, how?

Oh, definitely. My work schedule is all over the place now, so I don’t have a normal time of day that I write. Like I said previously, I just snatch the time when I can. And like so many others out there, I find it hard to focus some days depending on what new terrible thing is going on.

Tell us about your current project.

Right now I’m working on edits for an eco-horror/weird fiction novel set on Cape Cod with my agent, a handful of supernatural horror stories (most of which are also set on Cape Cod), and five or six short stories for different venues. I’ve been writing about a lot of lake/ocean/pool/pond/river monsters lately, so figure there are a number of aquatic creatures spread out across those projects 🙂

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Don’t be afraid to submit your work. Yes, you need to polish the heck out of it, but don’t wait too long or you might never get it out there.

Also, always try to write something that you’d want to read. That’s my goal anyway. I think of what a version of myself maybe five years ago would get stoked to read, and I try to create that.

Everyone always says read a ton, and I echo that, and I want to add that when you find a writer you really click with, devour as much of their work as you can. This always helps inspire me and get me excited to sit down at my computer. Whatever I can do to get me excited about typing is cool with me.

You can follow Corey Farrenkopf at his website, https://CoreyFarrenkopf.com. His Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/corey.farrenkopf/. Follow him on Twitter at @CoreyFarrenkopf and Instagram at @Farrenkopf451.

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Book Release: PSYCHONAUT by Carmilla Voiez

Psychonaut coverSatori is caught between two worlds. There is something he needs in one, but the other keeps drawing him back. However, he is in love and he isn’t going to let a little thing like death get in his way. To reach his goal, he must face unimaginable horrors, not least of which is his true self.

Star’s tortured and broken body awaits Satori, but does she really need him to save her? His rival, a rage-filled young woman, grows more powerful and becomes as twisted as the ribbons in her hair while the demon, Lilith, draws each of them inexorably towards her. Who will survive the coming battle?

Full of sex and magic, PSYCHONAUT is an exploration into the human psyche and the second book in Voiez’s STARBLOOD trilogy.

Carmilla Voiez is more of a singer than a writer. She tells her compelling story in a hypnotic, distinctive voice that brings her eerie world vividly to life.
—Graham Masterton

PSYCHONAUT is a book of mad impulses, inner vision, sadism, escape and belief. You feel uncomfortable reading it, like Alex strapped to the chair in Clockwork Orange being taught to feel sick at atrocity. Rather than leave us crippled by response, though, Psychonaut bears you through the hurt towards the only paradise we can be assured of…a love past fault.
—Jef Withonef, Houston Press

Carmilla VoiezPSYCHONAUT is the second book in Carmilla Voiez’s STARBLOOD series. It’s a relaunch of the novel by American indie Vamptasy Publishing. The series contains four books and follows the lives of a group of friends: Star, Satori, Freya, Donna, Raven, and Ivan, young Goths living in Bristol, England.

In the first book, STARBLOOD, Star breaks up with her lover, Satori, but he is unwilling to let her go. Satori is an adept chaos magician and decides to cast a spell to keep Star by his side, but because of competing forces Lilith, mother of demons, uses this moment to come to Earth and enter their lives. The result is a tangled web of murder, madness and betrayal.

You can find the first book at Amazon and other retailers: http://smarturl.it/Starblood.

PSYCHONAUT takes us beyond the urban lives of these ill-fated Goths and into other worlds full of demons, gods, magic, and monsters.

PSYCHONAUT is available now at http://smarturl.it/PsychonautVoiez.

Seeking Beta Readers for DEAD CEMETERY

I’m seeking beta readers for a 75,000-word gay romance/horror novel.

Contact me if you’re interested in being a beta reader or writing a book review. Thanks.

Image from ZbrushCentral.com, #392423   
Winged Beast

Dead Cemetery by Lee Allen Howard

Jarod Huntingdon wants more than anything to have a family with children of his own, yet he’s unable to commit to his girlfriend and doesn’t know why.

He returns home to the remote rural community of Annastasis Creek for a season of soul-searching where he encounters his childhood friend, Scotty McPherson, and—despite their high school fallout—Jarod finds he’s still attracted to him.

When Scotty’s six-year-old niece, Madison, goes missing, a frantic search ensues. A violent rainstorm traps them in the valley, blocks roads, cuts off all communication, and hampers the hunt.

In the meantime, Jarod learns of a curse as old as he is, first placed on the community after five young people perished in a house fire during the sacrifice of a deformed child.

As the curse takes hold, the dead return to abduct the living, and the abducted turn into monsters.

To appease the curse, defrocked Pentecostal pastor Uriah Zalmon must find another sinner to sacrifice. The Covenant Trustees unanimously select Scotty. Who better to play the scapegoat than an “unrepentant homosexual”?

Faced with losing the love and support of his family and community, Jarod must choose between the life he’s always envisioned and saving Scotty from being sacrificed to a great winged beast hibernating in the bowels of an abandoned church.

Can he rescue his true love and break the curse once and for all?

Contact Lee Allen Howard

Book Release: PERPETUAL NIGHTMARES

Vampires, beasties, zombies, ghouls… and the murderous kid next door. Twenty-four stories of human and supernatural horror and crime will chill you to the bone. Can you escape the perpetual nightmares?

This collection is now available in trade paperback (322 pages) from Three First Names.

“Lee Allen Howard is an imaginative writer with slick, vivid prose and high octane pacing. He writes like no one else, and I mean this in a very good way.”
—Trent Zelazny

For a limited time, PERPETUAL NIGHTMARES is available from CreateSpace for *15% off* the cover price. Order today! Apply the following checkout code for your discount: 9RNJG6SZ

PERPETUAL NIGHTMARES is available on Amazon for $16.99 (click the cover to buy now):

Perpetual Nightmares Cover

Click here to read the introduction.

“Lee Allen Howard stitches together a story where the suspense never lets up.”
—Ron Edison

Reviews are greatly appreciated!

Happy Halloween!

PERPETUAL NIGHTMARES Coming Soon

I’ve been hard at work collecting all my short fiction into one book, due out soon from Three First Names.

Vampires, beasties, zombies, ghouls… and the murderous kid next door. Twenty-four stories of human and supernatural horror and crime will chill you to the bone. Can you escape the perpetual nightmares?

“Lee Allen Howard stitches together a story where the suspense never lets up.”
—Ron Edison

Click on the cover to read the introduction:

Perpetual Nightmares Cover

Stay tuned for publication details!

“Howard’s Bookshelf” at Midwest Book Review

Hey, I got my own “bookshelf” at Midwest Book Review’s website this month.

Check out my reviews of Barbie Wilde’s THE VENUS COMPLEX and Carlton Mellick III’s QUICKSAND HOUSE. Here’s the link:

http://www.midwestbookreview.com/rbw/oct_13.htm#howard

Also, search the site from the home page for “Michael A. Arnzen” to read my review of PLAY DEAD.

I hope to write more reviews for MBR. Let me know what you think.