HOW CON: Writers, Learn What the #NGHW Challengers Learned

Our Next Great Horror Writer challenge was an excellent learning process for our contestants and listening to the audio will give you tips on writing and examples of what can be done better and what really makes editors pause and listen to your work. Each audio below covers a different style/aspect of writing. Hosted by Emerian Rich, Dan Shaurette, and H.E. Roulo

#NGHW Episode 1: The top 15 are chosen. 100 Word Stories and how they got into the top by answering questions well and submitting excellent cover letters.

#NGHW Episode 2: 300 Word Monster Stories, how to write flash fiction. Guest judge horror writer and podcaster, Mark Eller.

#NGHW Episode 3: 500 Word Blog Posts, what makes a good blog post impactful.
Guest judge The Count from Cemetery Confessions.

#NGHW Episode 4: Spoof Commercials. How to write short comedy. Guest Judge author and humorist, Timothy Reynolds.

#NGHW Episode 5: Horror Romance Poems, how to write romance poetry. Guest Judges Julianne Snow and Nina D’Arcangela from Sirens Call Publications

#NGHW Episode 6: Horror Music Story, how to write a short story that will sell. Guest Judge Jeremiah Donaldson

#NGHW Episode 7: Horrific True Tales. How to write a blog post of true life horror story. Guest Judge Stacy Rich, Blog Editor.

#NGHW Episode 8: Character Descriptions. How to write a good character description. Guest Judge Annette Curtis Klause

#NGHW Episode 9: Campfire Tales. How to craft a well-rounded short story. Guest Judge Dario Ciriello

#NGHW Episode 10: Interviews. How to interview and how to be interviewed. Guest Judge Stacy Rich

#NGHW Episode 11: Audiodramas. How to write short scripts. Guest Judge director and writer, Frank H. Woodward.

#NGHW Episode 12: 3000-word short story with a POC woman character. Guest Judge publisher Nicole Givens Kurtz from Mocha Memoirs.

#NGHW Episode 13: Review of the 3 novel pitches, how to pitch a novel, first 3 chapters, and the winners of our contest. Guest Judge Joe Mynhardt from Crystal Lake Publishing.

Do you want to be the Next Great Horror Writer? Subscribe to this blog for information on when we launch our next contest.

HOW Con: New 2020 Workshops!

If you can’t take time out to be part of the Live Shout Box Events happening at the Online Writers Conference Feb 25-27 never fear! Our forum based conference has numerous workshop for your Publishing, Writing, and yes, Horror inspirations!

In addition to our Previous Articles and Video Panels from last year that attendees can still access, New Workshops for our 2020 Conference include:

Speculative Author Diane Arrelle Interview

Using the Imagination Game to Inspire Ideas by Emerian Rich

How to World and Character Build in Horror by Charles F. French

What to do When Real Life Interferes with Writing by Kristin Battestella

Back to Basics: Writing Prompts Like We’re 10 Video Exercise

10 Things to Remember when Planning a Writing Event

How to Plan Workshops and Oral Presentations


Remember to Sign up and Log in so you can experience all HOW has to offer! 

Paranormal and Horror Author Panel – South Jersey Writers Conference

Moderator Brian McKinley joins authors William Gold, Christine Norris, J.P. Simmons, and J.L. Brown to discuss vampires, science fiction, young adult, paranormal, steampunk, urban fantasy, witches, and much much more on the writing process, world building, social media marketing, and author brands at the South Jersey Writers Conference November 10.



Videos also available from the South Jersey Writers Conference include Networking Night with mystery author Ilene Schneider and the NaNoWriMo address from speculative writer K.A. Magrowski.

For more information, visit


In the world of horror, there is always a story to create. There is always something to write about, the question is how to find it. As a writer, there are multiple methods you can use to draw inspiration from. I’m sure you’ve heard: write what you know. However, as a horror writer, it is unlikely that you have experienced something in your life that be could be classified as horror. That does not mean that you can’t take something from your life and horrify it. You can even exaggerate a nightmare you once had.

There are some cases that writers experience where they have nothing to draw inspiration from, no matter what genre you choose to write. If this is you, either right now or in the future, writing prompts are a great way to help you find your story to start writing. The Internet houses a plethora of prompts to help you get started but the question is:

         How do you get from A to B, from prompt to story?

Each person interprets the same prompt differently which means that one prompt can produce various types of stories. The purpose of this article is not to tell you how to interpret a prompt to get a story idea because that is up to each individual writer. The reason I have written this article is to help you start the writing process of your story once you get an idea from a prompt.

So how do you start writing from a prompt? The key is that every story starts with a character. Once you find a story within a prompt the next step is to create your protagonist. The protagonist is the main character of the story and in every story, your protagonist needs a want or desire something. This want/desire is what the story revolves around and what drives the story forward. An example is the classic horror story The Shining. The protagonist, Jack Torrance, has the desire to be a good father, husband, and writer. As the story progresses his desires shift as he transfers into the antagonist, the villain of the story.

Once you have determined the desire(s) of your protagonist, the next step is to create the setting of your story. Where is your story going to take place, what is the environment like, and how does it look? Sometimes a prompt details the location of the story but as the writer, it is your job to create the details that make the story come to life. A little note to help you write the details that brings your story alive is to think of the five senses: touch, smell, sound, taste, sight. Writing with the idea of describing the senses will make your readers become immersed in the story. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself and ask a friend to read it.

Now that you know a few steps to help you get started with writing your story, here a few horrific prompts get those writing juices following:

A man goes missing for two years. He returns to town with one less limb than he left with.

Blood starts to drip randomly down the walls. Where is it coming from and whose blood is it?

Every morning she wakes up with one less finger on her hand. Where did they go and what happens when the last finger is gone?

A new machine is invented by the government and now a creature is on loose.

A haunted mansion disappears out of sight on Halloween night. Where did the spirits go and where or who are they going to haunt next?

The Writing Chamber: An Introduction to the Art of Writing Horror

As a writer, I can tell you that the creation of a story and putting it into words for an audience to read is an art form. Just like any other art (like music, dance, or theater), becoming a successful writer is not about talent but instead, it’s about learning the craft to obtain the skill. Yes, writing a good story takes a skill that you’re not born with. Instead, you learn it.

This article will tell you all you need to know when writing a horror story, but take everything I say with a grain of salt because writing, like any other art form, is derived from artistic freedom. As the writer, you can take your artistry in any path, in any form, that you wish. That being said, it is important to note that literary genres have structures and techniques used to execute this art form, and writing horror is not different. As you may well know, the literary genre of horror has sub-genres. Through a marketing eye horror is one genre, but as a writer, you know that there are sub-genres underneath the branch of horror. As the writer, you can make the choice to mix and match these sub-genres or you can pick one to stick with for a story whether it be a poem, short story, or novel.

Let’s go over these sub-genres so as the writer you know what is available to you when writing in horror. First, there’s the thriller. This genre describes what readers will be experiencing while investing themselves in your story. Thrillers thrill the audience, giving suspense to the reader. Questions are often prompted by this genre such as:

Will she survive?

Does he know he’s being followed?

Forcing your reader to ask these types of questions is what makes your story a thriller.

Now that you know what a thriller is, there’s a technique you can use to ensure that your horror contains the thrill. The technique is called Dramatic Irony, which means that within your story you reader knows information that your character does not. Using Dramatic Irony places suspense in your story and puts your reader on edge as they are anticipating the moment when the character finally knows what the reader already knows. An example of this in the 1993 film Jurassic Park when Dennis Nedry deactivates the security system in order to escape with the stolen embryos. The audience now knows that the dinosaurs are free and they are in suspense until the characters are made aware. This example of dramatic irony only lasts a few moments within the story, but as the writer you can make the choice to leave the readers in suspense for as long as you want.

The next horror sub-genre is gore. The genre is pretty self-explanatory. Gore involves the bloody, gruesome, and morbid bits of a horror story. However, this genre has another sub-genre that branches off of it which is the slasher. An example of this classic horror genre is Friday the 13th. A slasher is essentially a story that derives from a mass murder. As the writer, you have the choice to make the murders as gory as you want. If you are struggling with deciding how morbid, bloody, gross, etc. you want your gore/slasher story to be a writer’s technique you can use is what I call the Reader Reaction. While writing your story think about how you want your reader to react. How do you imagine your reader responding while they are reading your story? Do you want them to want to vomit, to sit uncomfortably, or to simply say, “Ew.” Knowing how you want your reader to react will help you hone in on how much gore is in your horror.

The third sub-genre is the supernatural/paranormal. Although these two are very different, I have branched them together because the strategies and techniques used for executing these genres are very similar. In case you don’t know, the supernatural genre involves the use of mythical beings such as vampires and mermaids. The paranormal genre uses ghosts, demons, and any other spiritual being. Both of these genres have the story revolve around entities that question reality. With the supernatural/paranormal, it is easy to write the clichés to create another typical horror story, but as the writer you want to play on the uniqueness of your story. Give your readers something that they haven’t read before. A technique you can use to avoid writing the clichés is the Reverse and Opposite. Take a story and make changes to create something new. Some examples could be reversing gender roles, making your protagonist do the exact opposite, etc. Reverse and Opposite involves reversing aspects of your and making things the opposite from the original. Playing around with this technique will create interesting and new ideas that you probably wouldn’t have originally thought of. When using the Reverse and Opposite with the supernatural/paranormal, it opens your horror story to be more than just a story about a ghost or vampire because the horror plays with the unexpected, which can be truly scary.

The last horror sub-genre is mystery. A mystery is a story that involves the readers questioning aspects of your story, wondering what the answers are. This genre is mainly known as the classic murder mystery, but as a horror writer you probably want to go darker and more morbid than the cliché Agatha Christie detective story. To ensure that your mystery is as horror-like as you wish, use the techniques and strategies of the other sub-genres and go to town to make your story a true horror story. Going back to what I said earlier, the sub-genres of horror can be mixed and matched in whatever what you wish. You can write a gore mystery, or a paranormal one. Either way, there are so many options and techniques you can use when writing your horror story.

As the writer you have the artistic freedom to take your horror story in any direction that you want, using any techniques that you choose. The sky is the limit when it comes to writing. Now that you know the basics of writing horror, knowing the sub-genres and how to execute them, you can go to the drawing board to craft your horror story.







Serial Scribbler Series: Master Your Craft




In this world of indie publishing, creating a book is as easy as point and click. This convenience has led to an overwhelming issue that all “indies” are facing these days. Something I like to call complacency.

We all know that it’s hard to find someone to show us the ropes when we first start out. Some indie authors who have found a measure of success are very tight lipped about how they’ve done it. Whether they feel that revealing their how-to methods will create competition or they just aren’t sure, themselves.

Being an independently published author comes with some major perks, like getting to keep your royalties for one. But that perk can quickly turn out to be your demise. This is why you hear so many traditionally published authors looking down on the “indies”.

In my last article, I spoke about book covers and the importance of them. In this article I’d like to continue with Mastering Your Craft.

What does that mean, exactly?

You’re a published author now! So what. Yeah, I said it. So what. I want to know what you plan to do next. And if you haven’t answered this question – or let’s be frank – if you haven’t asked yourself this question yet… you have much to learn.

You owe it to yourself and to your readers, to get better. No one’s first book is perfect. If they tell you it is, they’re lying. Your first book is where you cut your teeth in this industry. Anyone can write stories. Yep, I said that, too! ANYone can write a story. Will you like it? That depends. Some people have this amazing ability to weave words and tell a tale that sucks you in and makes you want to know more. But is everyone an author?

Here’s the distinction:

A writer, writes. Maybe it’s their job. Maybe it’s something they do as a hobby.

An author is someone that considers this his/her trade, craft, passion, career.  If they’re not writing, and perfecting each story than they aren’t really happy with it. These people want to hear more than, “Oh this is really good!” They want to hear in-depth critique, suggestions, questions, and to discuss their work.

In their head, these worlds are real and they mean something to them because when they wrote it, they put something of themselves into it.

There are writing groups, guilds, Facebook groups, Meet-Up groups, etc. Go to them. Get your work critiqued by someone you trust to be brutally honest with you. This is something else you owe to yourself, and your readers.

Being an author is hard. If this is something you want to do outside of a hobby, you need to constantly evolve. In my next article, we’ll discuss other ways to do that.

For now, keep the horror in the story, not in your end product.


John F.D. Taft on Horror Writing

Some Unasked Writing Advice,
Or How I Buckled Down on My Writing and
Shot to Authorship and How You Can, Too!

By John F.D. Taff

Sounds like an internet self-help program, doesn’t it? But, it’s true. Every. Single. Word.
I’ve been writing for about 25 years now, professionally at least. And by “professionally” I mean writing stuff that someone gives me money for. Not love. Not contributor’s copies. Just coin.

Writing is one of those things that seemingly everyone thinks they can do, or at least thinks they’d like to do. Tell anyone you’re a writer, and you usually get that “Ahh, yes. I have a great idea for a book.” To which I generally respond “Well, then, you should definitely write it.”

They won’t. I know it and they know it. Why? Because writing is hard. It’s not working on a road crew hard, or being a resident in a hospital grueling or chipping away in a coal mine strenuous. But it’s hard nonetheless. It does require sweat (of a sort). It does require a particular (and peculiar) foundation of skills. And, yes, it does require mining, at least the mining of experiences and emotions.

That’s why most people can’t ever seem to sit down and write something. It’s difficult.
And, let’s face it, the other reason most people don’t sit down and write something is because it’s boring. It’s lonely. It’s tedious. And there are so many, many things out there to distract you—the Internet, TV, life!

So, if you’ve actually put something down onto paper—a poem, a short story, even (gasp!) the beginnings of a novel—congratulations! You’re way ahead of the curve and well on your way to becoming an author.

“An Author?” you’re gasping (and I can hear you gasping!). “What’s the difference?”
An author is to a writer as a chef is to a home cook. The word “author” signifies that you’ve written something, written it so well that someone actually wants to pay you for it. Even if it’s just a few cents per word or twenty bucks, this simple act of payment sets you apart from even the small percentage of people who actually become writers.

So, how do you turn yourself from a writer into an author, you might ask? Ahh, therein lies the tale…

I’ll recount how my latest book—a collection of five novellas entitled The End in All Beginnings—went from a few written pieces to an actual, published book that’s receiving rave reviews at Amazon and from authors like Jonathan Maberry and Jack Ketchum.

Write. Write A Lot. Then Write Some More. This is the kind of advice that many aspiring authors get that makes them roll their eyes. “Work? Is that it? That’s the secret?” Yes, because, alas, there is no secret. It’s all work. All Writing. Worried that you’re not writing enough? You’re not. Write more. Write every day. Write good stuff, mediocre stuff, bad stuff. Write something all the time. Keep a journal and a pencil on your bedroom nightstand and jot down dreams and late-night ideas. The simple act of writing all the time will have two benefits, I guarantee it. First, it will make you a better writer. And ultimately, it will lead to your becoming an author. I’d been writing for more than half my life when The End in All Beginnings came out. Some of the stuff was new, but some of the stuff was two decades old. It needed editing and polishing, sure, but it came from a huge surplus of things I’d written in the past.

Get Readers and Get Feedback. And how do you do this? Submit. Submit a Lot. Then submit some more. Writing away in your tiny garret, then saving the pages to your encrypted hard drive where they will never be seen? OK, well, fine for a writer, but not an author. Your writing must be seen. It must be submitted. Find places to send your stuff. Go through the stress that is sending your writing into the world, where it will be ignored by editors…or, worse, beaten to a pulp, spit at and derided by editors. This is all part of the process. Before The End in All Beginnings was even a glimmer, I’d amassed a gigantic folder of rejections for my stories. It’s all part of the journey from writer to author. Writing requires readers and feedback, and the only way to get this process started is to submit your work.

Listen to Editors. And Don’t Listen to Editors. So you’re submitting your stuff? Excellent. Most of the time, you’ll just get form letters rejecting your material. Sometimes, though, you’ll get actual letters from actual editors offering criticism of the story; what didn’t work for them and why they’re not buying it. Here’s the thing. It’s often best to put your ego aside and listen to these criticisms. It’s easy to get discouraged or think the editor’s a brainless creep, or they just don’t “get you.” But these people read a lot and can easily and quickly tell you what’s wrong with a story. Sometimes there’s nothing “wrong” with your story at all, it simply didn’t fit into what the editor was looking for. Here’s the flipside though: when it comes to an opinion, an editor is only one person. So don’t put too much into what they say. The razor’s edge here is to always remain open minded enough to take legitimate criticism but also confident enough of your own work to keep what makes it yours. “Object Permanence,” a novella in The End in All Beginnings, was an older story of mine that had been rejected dozens of times over two decades. I made changes to it many times, but some people still just didn’t get it…or like it. But I finally got to the place where I knew that this was the story I was seeking to tell; no more changes necessary. To be honest, some people still don’t like it, but meh. Some people have said it’s their favorite in the collection, so there.

Get Out and Meet People. Sending your work out into the world is one thing, but you also need to get out and mingle. Writers work on their own. Authors get out and press the flesh with readers and other authors. Join a writer’s group. Have a signing for a book. Go to conventions. I will tell you that my career didn’t really take off until I finally attended a professional writer’s convention in New Orleans two years ago. I met a lot of people, one of whom was the editor I eventually worked with to package the novellas that became The End in All Beginnings. While writing is, indeed, a lonely profession, and it might not take a village to raise your book, it does take some professional relationships. And the only way to make these is to leave your house occasionally. P.S. Also remember to bathe…just sayin’.

Have a Plan. In other words, make your own project. Don’t wait for someone to tell you that they’d like a novel on X-Y-Z subject. Don’t wait for someone to tell you that they’re looking for a collection of short stories. Put together your own project. I worked with that editor I met at that convention to develop The End in All Beginnings. We didn’t wait for a publisher to tell us they wanted something like it, we just did it. Then convinced a publisher that they should buy it. If you wait for people to tell you what they want, you’ll be waiting for a very, very long time. And you won’t be writing what you want to write.

Edit. Cut. Edit. Cut. Repeat. As with writing every day, editing and cutting and revising are the critical skills, I believe, that set writers apart from authors. Editing is a crucial skill that many writers just don’t have. And that’s OK, as long as you find someone who does have this skill and isn’t afraid of pissing you off now and then. There’s no substitute. As I said, a few of the stories in The End in All Beginnings went through two decades of editing., and they’re all the better for it.

Know When to Stop. As important as editing is, you gotta know when to stop. And whereas relying on an editor to tell you when things need to change, stopping has got to come from you alone. Only you, the author of the story, know when the piece is finished. When is that? For me, I know it’s done when I’m down to fiddling with words over and over, changing minutiae that don’t really make it better or worse, just different. (Incidentally, it’s the same way I know whether to take an editing comment or not.) Over editing can often be as much a problem as under editing.

Surround Yourself with Trustworthy People. Finding an editor you trust, who has the skills to do the job, is important. Finding readers who can read your work and offer honest opinions is vital, too. Probably not your mom or the nice lady down the street or your spouse. Find someone who likes to read the kind of stuff you write and isn’t afraid of telling you the truth. Then, find a publisher who is on the straight and narrow. Don’t become so elated that someone wants to publish your novel that you depart from your senses and sign a contract that gives away the work, your firstborn and even your eternal soul. Being an author rather than a writer means embracing the business side of writing. And that means making informed decisions about who’s going to bring your work to readers. If you don’t already know, let me be the first to warn you that there are bad people out there, and some of them are in book publishing. Be aware. I was lucky enough to find the good people at Grey Matter Press, who published The End in All Beginnings. They have a professional website. They publish what they say they’re going to publish. They pay, fairly and on time. People speak well of them. All of this is important when selecting a publisher.

Become Discouraged. And then Don’t. So you do all this, and submit, submit, submit. Your work is rejected, rejected and rejected. You get discouraged. This is normal. A writer’s life—and this doesn’t change as far as I can see when you’re an author—is one of incredible amounts self-doubt. Obviously, submitting your work and being rejected doesn’t help this. But I can offer no other advice than to simply get over it. If you can’t handle this aspect, then you are not cut out to be an author. Believe me when I tell you that there are people out there who’ve never published a single word, but who are better writers than King, Grisham, Rowling or Wolfe. Why aren’t they published, then? Because they couldn’t take the rejection and folded. Period. Being an author is equal parts skill, luck and intestinal fortitude.

Know What You Want. And Press for It. Are you looking to be paid? Or just be read? Are you wanting to build a career? Or do you just want to get Aunt Hilda’s recipes out to a wider audience? What’s going to satisfy you? For me, writing as long as I have been, my wishes for The End in All Beginnings were to build on the name I’d already established, and the works that had started to build my awareness a few years ago. Yes, money was part of this, but another building block in my reputation as a pretty good horror author was at least as important, if not more so. Decide what you want in advance, and set your expectations accordingly.

23213104Bonus: Promote Yourself. A Lot. Think your publisher is going to spend the dollars or time to market your book? Hah…it is to laugh. I mean, I got lucky with The End in All Beginnings. Grey Matter Press is headed by marketing gurus who actually do a lot of this. But most publishers, and I mean even the big guys in NYC, don’t spend much either time or money marketing your work. That, my little cottage-industry, is up to you. You’d better become fluent, if you aren’t already, in blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and every other applicable form of social media if you want to succeed. You don’t have to do them all. I maintain a fairly active blog ( and a healthy Twitter presence (@johnfdtaff), but I don’t get into Facebook at all, much to the consternation of my publishers. Just can’t abide it. You need to select the types of marketing you do enjoy and can keep up with, and engage in them. Engage in them consistently and frequently. Because they will form your lifeline to the reader. Without that, you’re just a writer. And if you just want to be a writer, well, OK. But if you want to be an author, it’s easy. Go back to No. 1 in this list and start all over again!


IMG_85307869436552John F.D. Taff has published more than 70 short stories in markets that include Cemetery Dance, Deathrealm, Big Pulp, Postscripts to Darkness, Hot Blood: Fear the Fever, Hot Blood: Seeds of Fear and Shock Rock II.

Over the years, six of his short stories have been named honorable mentions in the Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror. His first collection, Little Deaths, was published in 2012 and has been well-reviewed by critics and readers alike. The collection appeared on the Bram Stoker Reading List, has been the No. 1 Bestseller at Amazon in the Horror/Short Stories category and was named the No. 1 Horror Collection of 2012 by HorrorTalk.

Taff’s The Bell Witch is a historical novel inspired by the events of a real-life haunting and was released in August 2013. His thriller Kill/Off was published in December 2013.

Taff’s short story “Show Me” is featured in the Bram Stoker Award-nominated anthology from Grey Matter Press, Dark Visions: A Collection of Modern Horror – Volume One. His tale that breathes new life into the zombie apocalypse, “Angie,” appears in the Grey Matter Press volume Ominous Realities: The Anthology of Dark Speculative Horrors. His “Some Other Day” will be published in Death’s Realm, coming soon from Grey Matter Press.

More information about John F.D. Taff is available at 096, Patricia Santos

Horror Addicts Episode# 096

Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich

Intro Music by: Cancer Killing Gemini


25 days till Halloween!

patricia santos, valentine wolfe, fright night

monster music, halloween traditions, fright night, movie quiz, win, jessica robinson, life lessons from slasher films, masters of macabre announcement, jeremiah kipp, contact, dark regions press, joe r. lansdale, best band season 8 poll, valentine wolfe, annabel lee, free fiction friday, the darker passions: dracula, amarantha knight, black magic, witch movies, kbatz must bring dvds, mike lombardo, reel splatter productions, dany and dany, yaoi, anima, events, happy birthday marc vale!!!, dead mail, ghost sightings, dye your hair, writing advice, spooky locations in california, patricia santos, the weeping woman

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***Corrections! The Wicked Women Writer’s contest ends October 7th – vote before then!***


Write in re: ideas, questions, opinions, horror cartoons, favorite movies, etc…


h o s t e s s

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Sapphire Neal, David Watson, Dan Shaurette, Marc Vale, KBatz, Mimielle

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