By The Fire: Episode 149: Challenge 13: This is the End

As I start to write this post the song that is playing in my head is The End by The Doors. Because that’s what this is, the end of the contest and what a trip it has been. The last challenge in The Next Great Horror Writer for episode 149 of the HorrorAddicts.net podcast is the hardest one yet. This one was only open to the semi-finalists and they had to submit The first 3 chapters of their horror fiction novel including a cover letter, synopsis, and query. Wow!!! I have the highest respect for everyone in this contest because they had to work hard to be a part of it and everyone in it has shown how dedicated they are to their craft. The winner of this challenge and the grand prize for the contest is a book contract from Crystal Lake Publishing.

To sit and think on what everyone in this contest had to do to stay in it just boggles my mind. I can’t imagine doing it myself but this little group of writers really showed us what they were made of. The contest began with almost 120 entries and we eventually saw the field get narrowed down to just few. Along the way our writers had to produce an audio drama, a commercial, short stories, non fiction blog posts, create a monster, an intro to an original character and finally the beginning of a novel.

Through the course of this contest we’ve seen all of these writers grow and improve their skills and get tested like never before. I’ve really enjoyed the journey of these writers throughout this season of the podcast and it makes me sad to see just one winner. I think everyone in the contest should consider themselves a winner and be proud of what they have accomplished. Even if you get rid of all the other parts of the contest and just look at the fact that these writers have gotten to the point where they have submitted the first three chapters of their book is a big deal.

A lot of work goes into writing a novel, the planning, the outlining, the rewrites and finally the finished product. Some people spend years working on a novel and in my opinion its the most personal art form there is. Writers have to put their heart and soul into their novels and sending it to a publisher takes a lot of guts. It’s not easy becoming a published author, there is a lot of work involved in the process and when you do get published a whole new set of challenges await you. A writer’s work is never done and the ones that keep doing it are the ones that consider it their passion.

So Addicts, what did you think of the contest as a whole? Who did you think did the best job on this challenge? what do you thing the hardest part of doing a query and a cover letter are? Have you done one? What are the experiences you’ve had? Let us know in the comments.

 

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By The Fire: Episode 147: Challenge 12: Write a 2500-3000 Word Story Featuring a Diverse Woman and an Original Monster of Your Making

Our contest is drawing to a close, we made it to episode 147 of the HorrorAddicts.net podcast and the twelfth challenge for The Next Great Horror Writer is to Write a 2500-3000 word story featuring a diverse woman (of color/ethnic/minority) that also contains an original monster of the writer’s making. Our contestants created a monster way back in challenge 2 which they can use for this story, or they can create a new monster. The goal is to test their ability to write a story with a theme involved, they will be judged on creativity, overall story concept, and writing quality.

One thing I wonder about is would it be easier to create a monster or to create a good diverse female character and what would be the theme that would fit both? I think for all parts you are using a different part of your imagination. For a monster you want to try to think of something original but you also have to make it scary, being able to describe the monster and make it come alive is important. For the female character you would have to go into detail on her personality, what makes her tick and why should we care about her? When coming up with both of these creations probably the most important thing would be to make us feel some emotion for them and perhaps this is where the story’s theme would come out of. Whether its fear, compassion or even hatred, if we don’t feel anything and there is no theme, then we won’t want to finish the story.

So our contestants already know something about making a monster but how hard is it to come up with a good ethnic female character? Would it be harder to come up with a woman than a man? Or does that depend on if the writer is a woman or a man? Personally I think coming up with the monster would be much easier than coming up with your lead character because the lead character is the most important part of the story. So what do you think the hardest part of this challenge will be and who do you think did the best job with it? Let us know in the comments.

By The Fire: Episode 146: Challenge 11: Write a 5-6 minute Horror Audio Drama

Hello, Addicts, how time flies, we are getting towards the end of The Next Great Horror Writer contest and we have another tough challenge to talk about. In episode 146 of the HorrorAddicts.net podcast, the challenge for The Next Great Horror Writer is to write a 5-6 minute horror audio drama. This is another one of those challenges that doesn’t sound too hard but really is. At first glance, 5-6 minutes doesn’t seem like a lot but when you write it out, that’s 6 pages of script. Contestants will be judged on creativity, entertainment value, and concept. Contestants have to come up with their own characters and own idea, they can’t use anyone else’s characters or established story. Winner will get their audio drama produced for the show.

One great thing about this contest is that the participants are really getting tested in every aspect of writing. They have had interviews, short stories, commercials, nonfiction blog posts and other challenges. An audio drama is another form of writing that is very different from any other form of writing. When I think of audio dramas I think of the old radio plays from the thirties and forties. Radio plays are kind of a lost art form but if you look for them you can still find podcasts dedicated to this art. The horroraddicts.net podcast has had a few good audio dramas throughout the years.

Audio dramas are very different from reading a short story or novel, the story is always important but in this case, you have to tell a lot of your story in dialogue form. You also probably need a narrator to set up the story and you have to consider what kind of sound effects you would need. Finding voice actors may be something that has to be considered also.

So Addicts, do you enjoy listening to audio dramas? If so what are some of your favorites and what makes an audio drama good? I think the right voice actors play a big part in it but you also have to come up with good characters, a good setting and a great story idea. So what do you think the contestants will come up with and who do you think will do the best job? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

By The Fire: Episode 145: Challenge 9: Write a 1200-1500 word campfire tale in storyteller format

Hey HorrorAddicts, I hope you’re enjoying the contest so far because things are getting more exciting. In episode 145 of the HorrorAddicts.net podcast, the challenge for The Next Great Horror Writer is to write a 1200-1500 word campfire tale in storyteller format, as if you are telling it to us around the campfire. Contestants will be judged on scare factor, originality and storytelling ability. The winner will have their story published by horroraddicts.net publishing as part of their “Horror Bites Series”.

Campfire tales are possibly the most fun form of horror storytelling there is. If a campfire tale isn’t simple enough it will lose its effect. They should be short, hopefully, have a monster, crazed killer or a ghost and a shock ending would be the icing on the cake. Campfire tales aren’t rocket science, the story doesn’t have to even be that good as long as it’s scary. The whole idea is to gather around the campfire and try to scare your friends with tales of the grotesque or a good urban legend. We’re all storytellers if you think about it and a campfire is a perfect place to perfect your craft.

So Addicts, have you ever told scary tales around the fire? I think most people have, it’s like a rite of passage. To quote A Nightmare Before Christmas: “life’s no fun without a good scare”. What were the stories you tried to scare your friends with? Was your audience scared? Did someone scare you with their story? Pretend this blog is a roaring fire and let us know what your favorite scary story is and leave your tall tale in the comments.

By The Fire: Episode 144: Challenge 8: 900-1000 Word Introduction of an Original Horror Character

In episode 144 of the HorrorAddicts.net podcast, the challenge for The Next Great Horror Writer is to write a 900-1000 word introduction of an original horror character. The point of this challenge was to test the writer’s ability to create a believable and descriptive character. The prize for this part of the contest is for an anime sketch of the writer’s creation. So if they can’t describe their main character well, the artist can’t draw it and the person reading their work can’t form a mental image of who is being written about.

Describing a character in a book may not seem important but if an author leaves too much to the reader’s imagination, the reader’s image will be different from what the author is thinking about. The writer can’t control how the reader imagines his or her creation will be but they can at least give the reader an idea of what they were thinking. Writing a character description probably isn’t as easy as it sounds because how do you know when you over described them? You have to leave something to the reader’s imagination, but if you leave everything up to the reader it could ruin your whole story.

I have a great example of the importance of character description. Keep in mind that I’m coming from the reader’s point of view and not the writer’s. I just finished reading a horror novel where the monster in it is a Sasquatch. In this book, there is no real description given of the Sasquatch beyond the fact that it was big and hairy. The author left what the monster looked like to my imagination and instead of coming up with the image of a horrifying monster in my head I found myself thinking of the Sasquatch from the Jack Link beef jerky Messing with Sasquatch commercials. Every time the monster did something horrible in the book I wasn’t feeling scared for the protagonists instead I was laughing at how funny those commercials were. The writer’s attempt at making me scared of his monster failed because he didn’t give me enough information on what he was thinking.

So if you can’t give enough description of a character it could ruin your whole story. Character description in a horror novel is probably more important than in any other genre of fiction. Horror is all about emotion and as a reader if I don’t know enough about someone in a book I can’t feel any emotion for him. To fear a monster I need to know how evil it is and to be scared for a victim, I have to feel some compassion for him. It doesn’t even have to be a visual description if you describe how the monster in question has killed others that could get me to fear him. Same thing for the protagonist, just give me something I can relate to like how hard he works to support his family. That way I’ll be hoping he gets away from the monster because his family needs him. So horror addicts how would you describe your favorite monster? And what did you think of the contestants’ description? Leave a comment and let us know.

 

 

By The Fire Edpisode 141: Challenge 5: Horror Romance poems

Hey Horror addicts, we just had our fourth challenge in the horroraddicts.net Next Great Horror Writer Challenge. The challenge for this episode was to write a 650 to 700-word horror poem. The poem could be rhyming or free form. Writers needed to know how to convey a romantic situation and will be judged on sexiness, style and creating a horror romance theme.

Combining romance and horror in a poem can be even harder than writing on one topic or the other, but if you think about it romance and horror are topics that go hand in hand. For instance, if someone loves someone and that person doesn’t love them back it could be considered horror. Also, the idea of losing someone you love to death is a topic that scares everyone. One good example of a horror romance poem that I can think of is a song by Alice Cooper called This House Is Haunted. This song reads like a poem and it’s about a man living in a house haunted by his dead lover. Though if you look at the lyrics they could be interpreted as something different in someone else’s eyes and that’s what makes poetry complicated.

The Next Great  Writer Challenge is really putting the participants to the test. The whole point of this competition is to get writers to flex their literary muscles and this challenge does just that. In my opinion writing, poetry can be harder than writing a short story or even a novel. Poems are all about emotion and expressing emotion isn’t always easy. I think it’s hard to get your message across in a poem and then there is a whole other aspect to it which is getting your audience to understand what you’re trying to say.

A reader can interpret a poem that you wrote in lots of different ways. You may have written it but the reader might not get your message and instead get a completely different idea from what your work. You have to have a certain mindset to write poetry and a certain mindset to understand it. I have to admit that I usually have a hard time understanding poetry but there are some out there that I enjoy.

My favorite poem is Death by Emily Dickenson. This is a short poem but there is so much meaning here and so much is being said that to me it comes across as brilliant. I always thought the main idea she was trying to get across was her fear of death and how she wishes she was immortal. Though if you could talk to her about it, she might say that she had something completely different in mind. Emily Dickenson may not have been considered a horror poet but to me, that one is pretty scary.

When most people think of horror poets they think of Edgar Allen Poe or Lord Byron, but there is a lot more out there if you are willing to look. Do you have a favorite horror romance poem or just a favorite poem in general? Have you written some poetry that you want to share? Let us know in the comments and while you’re at it, let us know what you thought of the poems in episode 141.

Clockwork Wonderland Author Interview: Stephanie Ellis

Horroraddicts.net publishing has recently published our 5th anthology called Clockwork WonderlandThis is a book where anything can happen and time runs amok. In this book lies tales of serial killers, insane creations, a blood thirsty jabberclocky, and zombies. Clockwork Wonderland includes 15 tales that make Wonderland into a place of horror where all your worst nightmares come true. One of the authors in this anthology is Stephanie Ellis who took some time to tell us about the book and her writing:

What is your story in Clockwork Wonderland called and what is it about?

My story, Hands of Time, takes place in the subterranean world of Wonderland, in the dark dungeons and cellars no one ever really thinks about. Their existence, never referred to, must be real, after all the Queen of Hearts was always arresting her subjects and demanding their beheading. So, where did these miscreants go and who despatched them? This is where the Executioner comes in, a hooded figure shrouded in secrecy … like the world he inhabits. And like all people with a trade, he has his apprentices. These are his hands, one of whom will become chosen as his successor. Together with the TimeKeeper, who is in charge of the Queen’s clocks, he selects Rab as the one to follow his trade. But how is this choice made and what happens to the other hands … well, you’ll just have to read the story.

What inspired the idea?

“Off with their heads!” The line that everyone remembers. But whether you read the book or watch the film, you never see much of the Executioner. I wanted to know more about him and his world. I also played around with the different meanings for the word ‘hands’ – hands on a clock, work hands, actual flesh and blood hands (although not for long!!) and linked them all together. And suddenly an idea was born.

When did you start writing?

Several years ago, mostly privately and just ‘scribbling’, I didn’t think about doing anything more serious. Then about four years ago I saw a submission call for a horror anthology, thought it looked like fun, so had a go. It wasn’t successful as it didn’t quite fit but the feedback was positive so I tried again and this time got in. The then editor, Theresa Derwin (now of Quantum Corsets), was extremely supportive, and took other stories of mine for other anthologies. This encouraged me to try the wider market and here I am. Slow but sure.

What are your favorite topics to write about?

The darkness of the soul! Whatever I write, it always ends up dark. Some stories feature a bit of blood and gore but it’s not by any means all ‘slice and dice’ and only a few have standard horror tropes, ie tend to avoid vampires and werewolves. I prefer to hint at darkness, build up a sense of horror in setting and atmosphere, twist what might seem innocent at first.

What are some of your influences?

It goes without saying that Stephen King is one of them, he is amazing at creating such a real sense of place and time. He also shows that horror can be written in many different ways and he is certainly never repetitive. Ray Bradbury, particularly for Something Wicked This Way Comes, again the atmosphere, the characters, and its gothic feel. Then there’s Shirley Jackson, Edgard Allan Poe. But it’s not only these more famous authors. There are other writers I’ve met online, particularly a small Flash Fiction community called the FlashDogs and they have pushed me to raise my own standards. We compete against each other weekly in flash competitions and there are some amazingly dark people amongst them, particularly David Shakes, Mark A. King, Tamara Rogers to name but a few. The latter two have also recently published their first novels.

Another influence isn’t a book or a writer but a place. I grew up in an isolated rural area in a country pub, The Cider House in Shropshire . And something that’s always stayed with me is the atmosphere of that area and the feelings it generated: getting off the school bus and then facing the long walk home along narrow country lanes in gathering dusk; of the stillness before storms when birds stopped singing, branches stopped rustling and everything seemed to be waiting; of fog shrouding the fields and woods around the pub and walking through those mists and becoming totally disoriented. It always made me feel there was ‘something else’ at work around us and that’s an element I try to include in my writing.

What do you find fascinating about the horror genre?

The evil man can do, how it could even be considered. I just can’t comprehend how some people can commit the atrocities you hear of in the world today. What is it that drives them? Is it this idea of the Devil, is it a disturbed mental state? Who actually pulls the strings to create the nightmares? Perhaps there is more ‘out there’, a supernatural realm. Horror allows you to explore this darkness, consider the ‘What Ifs’. It makes you think and shakes you up but always delivers you safely on the other side … it keeps the monsters between the pages.

What are some of the works you have available?

I have had a number of short stories published in horror anthologies, all available over at amazon but I would like to mention the following in particular:

The Infernal Clock, co-edited by myself and David Shakes which has a story for every hour of the day. It features two of my stories, The Graveyard Shift-a new take on the Sandman legend-and Whispers which centers on a dysfunctional family in a haunted house.

Weird Ales Volume 1 (edited by the wonderful Theresa Derwin) which includes my story The Yowling, cider-making taken to a whole new level!

Masks edited by Dean M. Drinkel (again, another very supportive editor) which contains my story The Face Collector, a gothic story in which the Devil always collects.

What are you currently working on?

I have just finished my novel Black Switch, a near-future, industrial-type horror I suppose you would call it. What happens when humans run out of fuel, out of electricity but then discover a way of turning the lights back on; a way which could only be described as immoral. If you discovered someone had the ‘capacity’ to become a human battery, would you plug them into a Generator just so someone else could have a hot bath? Would you, could you trade another person just to save a member of your own family knowing what that trade would lead to?
The book is now out with a small group to beta-read before I take any further steps with it. To get over the nerves whilst I await their response I’ve started to mull over ideas for a new novel and since my Hands of Time story featured an Executioner, the whole idea of what ‘makes’ an executioner has stuck in my mind.

Where can we find you online?

I’m @el_Stevie on Twitter and can also be found at http://stephellis.weebly.com/ where my blog is usually only randomly updated. I’m hoping to improve on that slightly this year though.