Edward Owen – Author

Monthly Archives: October 2013

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Ray Bradbury Challenge #15- The Trouble With Teens and Halloween

A challenge within a challenge this week: a 100 word short story. The idea was simple and the conflict universal. I do have to admit that some of this is rather vicarious for me as I have three boys and no girls ( a fact for which Goldilocks continually blames yours truly) but I have heard the stories from my friends who are so cursed blessed. The Holiday season is here and NaNaWriMo is fast approaching. More on this amazing event on Friday. Thanks for stopping by, comments always welcome. Happy Halloween.


“It’s not fair! Mrs. Horner said yes.”

“Well, your mom said no. Pick something else.”

She sighed as her daughter stomped to her room, slamming the door. It had been easy when she was little. Baby vampire, mini zombie … even a giant bat one year. But now at thirteen, every year was a bigger battle than the last.

“What’s got her all worked up?” Her husband said.

“She wants to go to the Horner’s dressed as … an Angel!”

Flames shot from her husband’s eyes. “No demon of mine is going to parade around in such a sacrilegious costume!”

From Kristen Lamb’s Blog- Asking “What If?” & Exploring the Unknown–A Final Word on Writing Horror

A huge thank you to both Kristen Lamb and Kevin Lucia (same initials … coincidence or conspiracy? Hmmm … ) for a truly awesome series on my very favorite genre. If nothing else it has forced me to take a look at my own writing and raise it a notch or two. It has been my pleasure to present this series (yes, and use the time to get caught up on some other projects).

Kristen Lamb, WANA, We Are Not Alone, WANA Commons

Debbie Johannson WANA Commons

Fear is the most important tool in any writer’s toolbox. Fear is the beating heart of conflict, no matter the genre. Fear of death. Fear of losing love, not finding love, not recognizing love. Fear of change. Fear of remaining the same. In Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-Winning Novella The Road, the story was less about a fear of death and more about the fear of survival at the expense of one’s humanity. In The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan explores the fear of continuing generational curses.

In Winter’s Bone, Woodrell examines fear of family, what it takes to possibly betray family and risk death by turning on kin. In Virginia Woolf’s classic Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf probes the fear of being meaningless. Alduous Huxley’s Brave New World explores the fear of government, the tendency of the masses to devolve to mediocrity, and the dangers of society that only exists to seek empty pleasures and instant gratification.

Suffice this to say that I believe all great works (even outside of Horror) tap into our deepest primal fears, probe them, open them, expose them and maybe even (if we are fortunate) give us a glimpse of a cure.

Kevin continues today with a final word about horror.


We’ve discussed many things in the past few days about why the horror genre is important, why writing it is important and hard, but I’d like to offer this final thought: if we expand our definitions of horror past chainsaw wielding maniacs and human centipedes, we find that horror, at the root of it all, is often about a quest into the unknown.

As I’ll detail in one of my workshops at WanaCon, almost all the horror plots involve some level of discovery, penetrating the unknown. So horror exists not only because of mankind’s universal fears and a desire and NEED to deal with those fears, horror exists because there exist those special folks – horror writers – who are consumed with the desire to KNOW things, to ask questions that others would never think of asking, or, as the case may be, never dare ask.

I’d like to leave you with this final thought from Stephen King’s Danse Macabre, about why some of us blessed (cursed?) folks are drawn to writing horror:

“As you get ready to leave, think about this…or brood upon it:



The Story of “Little Miss Nobody”

On July 6th, 1944, the Ringling Brother and Barnum & Bailey Circus was giving a performance in Hartford, Connecticut, before 7,000 paid customers. A fire broke out; 168 persons died in the blaze and 487 were injured. One of the dead, a small girl thought to be six years old, was unidentified. Since no one came to claim her, and since her face was unmarred, a photograph was taken of her and distributed locally and then throughout the U. S. Days passed, weeks and months passed, but no relative, no playmate, no one in the nation came forward to identify her. She remains unknown to this day.

The job of the fantasy writer, or the horror writer, is to bust the walls of the tunnel vision we develop as  adults, bust it wide for a little while, to provide a single powerful spectacle for the third eye (our imagination). The job of the fantasy-horror writer is to make you, (the reader), for a little while, a child again.

And the horror writer himself/herself?

Someone else looks at that item about Little Miss Nobody – still unidentified – and says, “Jeez, you never can tell, can you?” and goes onto something else. But the fantasist begins to play with it as a child would, speculating about children from other dimensions, about doppelgangers, about God knows what else.

It’s a child’s toy, something bright and shiny and strange. Let us pull a lever and see what it does, let us push it across the floor and see if it goes rum-rum-rum or wacka-wacka-wacka. Let us turn it over and see if it will magically right itself again.

In short, let us have our Fortian rains of frogs and people who have mysteriously burned to death while sitting at home in their easy chairs; let us have our vampires and our werewolves. Let us have Little Miss Nobody, who perhaps slipped sideways through a crack in reality, only to be trampled to death in  a rush from a burning circus tent.

“It’s the best set of electric trains a boy ever had,” Orson Welles once said of making movies; the same can be said of making books and stories. Here is a chance to bust that tunnel vision wide open; bricks flying everywhere so that, for a moment at least, a dreamscape of wonders and horrors stands forth as clearly and with all the magical reality of the first Ferris wheel you ever saw as a kid, turning and turning against the sky.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Greg Koenig

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Greg Koenig

“Someone’s dead son is on the late movie. Somewhere a foul man – bogeyman! – is slouching through the snowy night with shining yellow eyes. Boys are thundering through autumn leaves on their way past the library at four in the morning, and somewhere else, in some other world, even as I write this, Frodo and  Sam are making their way toward Mordor, where the shadows lie. I am quite sure of it.” ~Stephen King, Danse Macabe

This is the best way to end my series, I think. I’ve tried to say some very noble things about the importance of the horror genre, and how it’s just as valid as any other genre, and why writing good horror is just as difficult as writing the next Great American Novel.

But all those comments come from my critical, analytical side (where I live every day as an English teacher), and all my own noble and worthy writing goals have become very rooted in my subconscious. What really pushed me toward the horror genre to begin with was the eternal, burning question: Why? and its inevitable follow up: What if…?

And for me?

The horror genre, the genre of the fantastic and strangely beautiful wonders and horrors, simply offered me the most room to play in. I could write a story about a father mourning the loss of his son, and, gripped by guilt, how he goes and sits next to a pond to watch the ducks, and maybe somebody rides by on a bicycle, and then through some heavy exposition – or through the symbolism of a burning sunset – our grieving father works through some resolution, gaining closure as he finally forgives himself.

But that’s just not me.

Cause I really like the idea of his dead son being on the late night movie, reaching through a very special and strange television screen….

Somewhere deep in my own little Twilight Zone.


THANK YOU, KEVIN! *does cabbage patch dance* Cabbage Patch Dolls. Talk about creepy (and yes I had them anyway).

What are your thoughts? Do you find yourself holding back in your own writing? Afraid to go to the dark places? What other works (horror or not) do you think did a really fabulous job of exploring our fears? Why did they rattle you? What made you uncomfortable? Did you find relief at the end?

I LOVE hearing from you, and I know Kevin will, too. Ask him your questions. Tell him your fears. Comments for guests get double weight in the contest. Btw, I will announce September’s winner next week. Too slammed with WANACon right now to do it properly. Ah, the contest…

Which is…

To prove it and show my love, for the month of September, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Horror Author Kevin Lucia

Horror Author Kevin Lucia

Kevin Lucia has worked as an Editor for Shroud Magazine and a Submissions Reader for Cemetery Dance Magazine, and is now an Associate Fiction Editor for The Horror ChannelHis podcast “Horror 101” is featured monthly on Tales to Terrify and his short fiction has appeared in several venues. He’s currently finishing his Creative Writing Masters Degree at Binghamton University, he teaches high school English at Seton Catholic Central High School and lives in Castle Creek, New York with his wife and children. He is the author of Hiram Grange & The Chosen One, Book Four of The Hiram Grange Chronicles and his first short story collection, Things Slip Through is forthcoming November 2013 from Crystal Lake Publishing.

Ray Bradbury Challenge #14- Perspective

A story inspired by a common every day item that many of us have come to rely on a great deal. For an explanation of the Ray Bradbury Challenge, check out this blog post by Arial Burnz here.


And to my nephew Michael I leave the small oak box that sits upon my desk.”

The words rang in Michael Warren’s ears and fueled his anger. The box sat on the front seat of his 1998 Camry as he navigated back to his one bedroom apartment in Chatsworth.

A friggen box! The old coot was worth millions and all he gave me was some useless knick-knack.

The smug look on his cousin Jenny’s face said it all. She got the house and the money. He got a box. He had burned a vacation day to attend the reading. What a waste of time. Not that schlepping packages all over L.A. was his idea of fun but it paid the bills. He had hoped his inheritance would allow him to take some time off. He pulled into his parking space and picked up the box.

Not unless there’s a couple million bucks stuffed in here.

By the time he climbed three flights of stairs (because the elevator was on the fritz, again) his anger had settled to mild annoyance. He tossed the box on the kitchen counter and pulled some left over pizza from the fridge. Thirty seconds in the nuker and lunch was served. As Michael wolfed down melted cheese and greasy pepperoni he noticed that one side of the box had a slit in it. His fingernail just fit allowing him to pry open the lid. His excitement was short lived as the only contents was an old pair of glasses and a handwritten note.

Dear Michael,

Doubtless you are cursing my name and your extraordinary bad fortune. Trust me when I tell you that what I left you is much more valuable than the pittance that shallow trollop Jenny received. You’re a smart young man. You’ll figure it out.


Michael picked up the glasses and slipped them on. Either the prescription was perfect or there was none. There didn’t seem to be any effect on his vision. He stepped into the living room to check out his look in the mirror. A little retro but not bad. He turned his gaze toward the couch and witnessed a man and a woman in a passionate embrace. Before he could say anything they moved apart. The man was him! And the woman was the pretty redhead from the legal office on Center St. She was friendly enough but he’d never said more than hello to her. Michael pulled off the glasses and the image vanished.

Great! Martin left me his hallucination inducing glasses.

Putting them back on produced no further visions prompting Michael to remove them and drop them into his shirt pocket. He grabbed his keys and headed out the door. The pizza had been the final vestige of food in his kitchen and he was still hungry.

Antonio’s Deli was crowded. It took him nearly twenty minutes to reach the counter.

“Pastrami, mustard and pickles only,” he said to the girl behind the counter. She rang him up and handed him his receipt. He stuffed it in his pocket and brushed against the glasses.

What the hell …

The view remained unchanged. He was about to take them off when a speeding white car careened down the street headed for the deli. Michael jumped out of the way as the car burst through the front window spraying the patrons with shards of glass. A number of people lay on the floor bleeding. As Michael stood up the glasses fell off his nose. He caught them and noticed everyone was staring at him. The window was still intact and the floor was clean. His face burning, he shuffled to the counter to pick up his order and slinked out the door cramming the spectacles in his pocket as he went.

Twenty feet from the door the roar of a car engine forced him to turn around. He stared in shock as the same white car plowed into the deli. The glasses were in his pocket. This time it was for real. A numbness settled over him as he pulled out his phone and called 911.


The next day he ran his deliveries on autopilot. He couldn’t shake the chill that had settled into his bones. Two women had died in the accident. They would be alive if he had said something. Maybe. Probably.

He was only vaguely aware he was in the law office until he saw her. The redhead. Her desk was right across from the receptionist. Her nameplate read ‘Mary Ann Stewart’. He started to walk out when the image of the two of them on his couch filled his mind. With a deep breath he strolled to her desk and waited until she looked up.

“Can I help you?” she said.

“I hope so, Mary Ann. My name is Michael and I would love to take you to dinner Friday.”

She smiled, her cheeks reddening a bit.

“Thank you Michael, I’d love to. You’ve been coming in here for weeks. I was beginning to think I was going to have to ask you out.”

It was his turn to blush. “I … umm, you know, I don’t know you that well.”

She giggled, scribbled her number on a sticky note and handed it to him.

“Call me tonight.”

Michael left the building walking on a cloud. Without a thought as to why, he pulled the glasses out of his pocket and put them on. He passed a newspaper stand and read the headline at the bottom of the morning edition.

‘Local Woman Killed During Robbery Attempt’. Mary Ann’s picture appeared next to the article. Michael scanned the rest of the paper. The date listed was next Saturday. He stared at the picture and removed the glasses. Mary Ann’s face vanished. Michael stood frozen in place, sweat soaking his shirt.

You’re a smart young man. You’ll figure it out.

Would he? Maybe. Hopefully.

From Kristen Lamb’s Blog- Why Writing Horror Is–SHOULD BE–Hard Part 2

If you have not read the previous articles in this series, you owe it to yourself to do so. Kevin Lucia has some words of wisdom for all writers, not just us creepy ghouls authors of the dark genre. Go Kristen (it is her blog). BTW, this is post #100 for me. Very happy to share it with Kristen and Kevin.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Niki Sublime

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Niki Sublime

First, a quick announcement. For those who’ve been waiting, my new social media book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is now available in PRINT. Yay! *happy dance* Almost 300 pages and 1.1 pounds of AWESOME. All you need to build a solid author platform and have time to do the most important part of the job—WRITE MORE BOOKS.

All right. Since it’s coming up on October, it seemed fitting to delve into the genre of Horror, and not simply for those who write spooky tales, but for the rest of us as well.

Elisabeth Kubler Ros once stated:

There are only two emotions: love and fear. All positive emotions come from love, all negative emotions from fear. From love flows happiness, contentment, peace, and joy. From fear comes anger, hate, anxiety and guilt. It’s true that there are only two primary emotions, love and fear. But it’s more accurate to say that there is only love or fear, for we cannot feel these two emotions together, at exactly the same time. They’re opposites. If we’re in fear, we are not in a place of love. When we’re in a place of love, we cannot be in a place of fear.

This means, the more we understand fear, the deeper our writing becomes, the more meaningful, visceral, and profound. In love stories, fear might be of being alone, of never finding “the one” or even losing “the one.” Conflict is always generated by fear. The protagonist wants something BUT THEN… The more intense the fear, the faster the reader turns the pages.

Thus, who better to teach about fear, its necessity, primal roots and tools for generating fear than the horror author? Kevin Lucia (who will be teaching MORE about this at WANACon this weekend) continues….


Here’s the thing: if you’re an ardent horror fan and budding horror writer, you’re part of a tradition. And as good fans, you’re aware of this tradition. You’ve been fed on it, raised in it, and the most natural thing for you to do initially is pay homage to that tradition in your work.

I’m not going to try and define horror here (because that could take forever, and I’d still never get close to a definition), but anyone who wants an insightful examination of the horror genre should check out Noel Carroll’s The Philosophy of Horror, or, Paradoxes of the Heart.

It’s a work that really maps out some excellent ideas about what the horror genre is and why people pursue it and this bit here made me feel a lot better about my early “trope” stories:

The creators and consumers of horror fictions are aware that they are operating within a shared tradition (emphasis mine), and this is acknowledged openly, with great frequency and gusto…the horror fiction of the present, though not lacking in energy, also refers back to earlier times, to classic monsters and  myths, as if in a gesture of nostalgia.

Noel Carroll, pg. 211

Helllooooo, there, Kiddies...

Helllooooo, there, Kiddies…

So those zombie and vampire and werewolf and big bug monster stories you’ve been writing? (And the creepy evil clown ones, too?) They’re nothing to be ashamed of, really. If you’re a horror fan, you’ve been raised on a certain diet, and our earliest efforts are unconscious or maybe even conscious attempts to pay homage to the horror traditions we’ve come to adore.



But there’s a difference between horror trope stories and horror stories. I’ve come to this belief through my reading as both a fan and as an editor at several different publications (Shroud Magazine, The Midnight Diner, Cemetery Dance Magazine). And, just like all of you, I’m still trying to write authentic, personal horror stories.

And that’s the first step in writing stories invoking the emotion of horror: searching deep inside yourself and writing stories that come from your GUT, not from your knowledge of the horror tradition. Like when Bradbury made a threshold discovery – ten years INTO his career, mind you – in mining his personal childhood experience while writing “The Lake.”

I can best sum this up in the words of Bram Stoker Award Winning writer and author Mort Castle:

“The best stuff, the stuff that lasts, comes from the late-night conversations we have with our very own selves.”

This hit me hard the first time he said it to me (in an email discussing my work) because it made me realize I was writing horror “trope” stories lacking any personal value. These stories weren’t born out of my own fears and anxieties, but born out of my (admittedly) healthy knowledge of horror’s traditions.

Again – I worked hard on those stories. I believe their craft is sound, to this day. But those stories were motivated and inspired by exterior motives – a vampire story, a ghost story, a haunted house story, etc. – not inspired by my heart or soul. So even though they were fine stories that some people liked, they weren’t living up to their fullest potential.

Also, horror trope stories often lack that sense of violation, transgression or inversion that really evokes the emotion of horror. A story evoking the emotion of horror must begin in some sort of “normal world” – or whatever passes for normal in your story – and there must be some sort of transgression in which the normal world of the protagonist is violated.

What they believe is normal and safe must be inverted and turned against them. Again – as a writer you can never account for all readers. How can you possibly know if the transgression or inversion in your story is really going to impact a reader? That’s nearly impossible to tell.

But when a story begins with an immortal vampire mulling over a warm goblet of blood his plans to overtake the city in a tide of bloodshed with his vampire minions…the emotion of horror is not invoked. This is a horror trope story. It can still be written just as well as any other story on a craft level and be just as enjoyable, but it has fallen short of invoking any emotion of “horror.”

Kristen Lamb, social media consultant, author consultant

Actually that vampire was mulling over Starbucks.

Lastly, very simply…horror at its best comments on the human condition. For horror to live up to its fullest potential, it must SAY something meaningful and of substance about the trials and pitfalls and struggles and fears and nightmares about what it MEANS to be human, living in this flawed, cracked, all-too human and imperfect world.

It’s an overused quote by now, but I’ll reference Stephen King’s comparison (or someone’s comparison, even SNOPES isn’t sure WHO said it first) of Harry Potter’s legacy and that of Twilight:

“Harry Potter is all about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity… Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend.”

For the record, I’m a lover of ALL types of horror stories. I enjoy the often pulpy, thrill-laced horror trope stories of Robert E. Howard and Brian Keene right along with the atmospheric, literary stories produced by the late Charles L. Grant, T. M. Wright, Ramsey Campbell and Norman Prentiss. I adore the literary, gothic sensibilities of Peter Straub, and Dean Koontz simple morality plays are a guilty pleasure.

Writers like Norman Partridge have produced both kinds of stories, and younger writers such as Rio Youers and Ron Malfi have taken the horror conventions and twisted them to their own ends. And, in the end, we need to write what’s inside us, what we WANT to write.

But it’s an important question for all horror writers – especially new and budding writers – to consider. What are you writing? Horror trope stories, or stories truly invoking the emotion of horror?

And if your aim is the latter…go deeper inside yourself. Find your fears. Take normal characters and invert their lives, transgress their natural order and say something about what it means to be a human in this mean, bad old world of ours and then maybe, maybe you’ll write some of the “best stuff…the stuff that lasts.”

I know I’m still trying.


Thanks, Kevin! Wanna know my idea of a horror story that reflects society?



All kidding aside (okay I wasn’t kidding), what are your thoughts? Questions? I DO believe that fear is essential in ALL genres and ALL great stories. As an editor, one of the BIGGEST problems I see is the writer holding back emotionally. They fail to GO FOR THE GUTS.


Guts are sticky, messy, gross and leave us conflicted. THAT IS GOOD. Fiction is the opposite of reality. In reality we avoid fear, terror, conflict, but as writers—GOOD WRITERS—we should go right for the throat. RAISE THOSE STAKES! Scare the protagonist! Have them fear personal and LITERAL extinction of themselves, everyone they love and all they hold dear. MAKE THE READER WORRY.

It is our DUTY as authors to be sadists and saviors simultaneously.

How you like that for alliteration? :D

I LOVE hearing from you, and I know Kevin will, too. Ask him your questions. Tell him your fears. Comments for guests get double weight in the contest.

Which is…

To prove it and show my love, for the month of September, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Horror Author Kevin Lucia

Horror Author Kevin Lucia

Kevin Lucia has worked as an Editor for Shroud Magazine and a Submissions Reader for Cemetery Dance Magazine, and is now an Associate Fiction Editor for The Horror ChannelHis podcast “Horror 101” is featured monthly on Tales to Terrify and his short fiction has appeared in several venues. He’s currently finishing his Creative Writing Masters Degree at Binghamton University, he teaches high school English at Seton Catholic Central High School and lives in Castle Creek, New York with his wife and children. He is the author of Hiram Grange & The Chosen One, Book Four of The Hiram Grange Chronicles and his first short story collection, Things Slip Through is forthcoming November 2013 from Crystal Lake Publishing.

Ray Bradbury Challenge #13- The Patter of Little Feet

One fourth of the way to my goal. Yeah!


The Patter of Little Feet

The screaming made it hard to sleep but he was getting used to it. It wouldn’t be long before one of them found a way in. When it did, he would join the chorus of those whose flesh was being clawed, chewed and consumed. The door of the x-ray room was lead lined and thus far had proven an effective barrier against – what? Abominations? Mistakes? Natural justice? He pulled the heavy aprons around his body in a feeble attempt to stop his shivering but it was not the temperature that made his muscles spasm.

Twenty-four hours earliercreepy cradle

“Don’t you ever feel a little sad?” Sandra’s brown eyes were tearing up again. “I mean, you remember when most of them made it, don’t you?”

The small body fit in his hands as he transferred it to the examination table. Its cool temperature passed through his latex gloves.

“Are you insinuating that I am old, Ms. Boothe?”

He gave her several moments to squirm as she tried to back pedal from the comment.

“I – oh no, nothing like that, Dr. Peterson. I don’t think you’re old at all.”

He released her from her torment with the same disarming smile that would eventually lure her into his bed.

“That’s where you are mistaken. I am old. Yes, I remember when the infant mortality rate was expressed in terms the number of deaths instead of live births. In those days, birth control was not only legal, it was highly encouraged and widely practiced. Viable fetuses were even terminated. The human race was in danger of breeding ourselves into extinction. No, I don’t feel sad, just an overwhelming sense of irony.”

Tears flowed down Sandra’s cheeks in response to her mentor’s words. Dr. Peterson, or Michael as she would no doubt yell in the throes of passion, wiped the moisture from her cheeks with a tissue.

“Let’s continue. We have an entire population eager to be parents.”

Their work continued late into the night. Test and retest, a new strain of virus, a stronger bacteria. Several subjects showed promise, but the fact that the disease would not thrive outside of the human body hampered their progress.

As they left the building, Michael put his arm around Sandra’s shoulders. The night held little in the way of surprises in the home of Dr. Michael Peterson. His bed was a shambles; blankets, sheets and two naked bodies strewn across its mattress. In the lab, a small red indicator light blinked. Moments later the sun shone in the window, its rays cutting through the purple cloud that engulfed hundreds of small plastic wrapped bodies lying on steel shelves.


“I need you to run some baselines on the cultures we started last night,” said Michael. “Will that be a problem?”

“No, I’ll be fine. I just needed a good night’s sleep.” Sandra tiptoed and kissed Michael on the cheek. “I slept great thanks to you. Sorry for making you late this morning.”

“I doubt another hour or two will make much difference.” He watched as she strutted into the lab, her hip action no doubt exaggerated for his benefit. He turned his attention to the monitor and let out a heavy sigh. The readings were off the scale. Something must have contaminated the sample. He punched the intercom button.

“Sandra, don’t bother with …” His words were cut off by screams blasting through the speaker. It took him four quick strides to reach the lab. As he burst through the door the bile rose in his throat and he stopped short. Sandra lay on the floor, her blood stained lab coat in shreds. The wall next to her was stained red with spatter as well. She was alive and Michael took a tentative step toward her. The sound of light footsteps caught him off guard. There were two of them. Babies. They rushed toward him, mouths and – claws? – dripping blood. His brain sidestepped making sense of the scene. It went into self preservation-panic mode. He slammed the door and bolted it shut.

Another scream sounded from the main hallway. The office door swung open, pushed by hands too small to grasp its thickness. Crimson droplets smeared on the wood from gnarled fingers and curved talons. The face was dominated by a gaping mouth full of pointed, blood stained teeth. The eyes had yellow irises and large pupils floating on a pale green eyeball. It made a wet, sucking sound and leaped at Michael. Pain erupted in his arm as it buried its teeth in his flesh. He slammed it against the wall. The body went limp and dropped to the floor. Before he could get to the door, two more creatures forced their way in. The only other exit led to the x-ray room. He tried the handle. Regulations required it stay locked when not in use. He fumbled through his pockets checking for his keys. They were on his desk.

He peeked around the corner. There was no movement in the room. He bolted across the carpet and swiped his keyring from the desk. The moment he turned to leave bolts of pain shot through his leg. One of the damn things had been hiding under his desk. He managed to kick it loose and run to the x-ray room. He dropped the keys twice and fumbled to get the correct one in the lock. The slurping was getting louder. Half a dozen creatures jumped at him as he twisted the handle and slipped inside. Their bodies thudded against the door.

As he lay on the floor wrapped in the leaded aprons, a sound came through the door nearly unknown for two generations. A sound that at one time had been a source of joy and now inspired fear.

The patter of little feet.

From Kristen Lamb’s Blog- Why Writing Horror Is–SHOULD BE–Hard Part 1

More from Kristen and Kevin on my favorite genre. This is great writing and has some real heart and soul behind it.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of normanack.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of normanack.

Whether one likes Horror or doesn’t, as artists, we can ALL learn to be better writers by studying what great Horror authors do well. Powerful fiction mines the darkest, deepest, grittiest areas of the soul. GREAT fiction holds a mirror to man and society and offers messages that go beyond the plot.

From the film, "I, Robot."

From the film, “I, Robot.”

Though not, per se, “Horror”, Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot is an excellent example. The Spawn recently fell in love with the movie and I’ve seen it 78 times in the past week (and am oddly okay with that). I, Robot isn’t just a story about a guy battling robots. There are so many messages about society—the costs of relinquishing personal responsibility/accountability, the dangers of blind faith, the real price of being totally “safe”, the ugly price of “convenience,” prejudice, and even the nature of the soul.

This story is SO GOOD because it is deeply, viscerally terrifying. Yet, it isn’t “Horror.”

And it could happen.

Stephen King is one of the most legendary authors of our time, and not just for scaring us. I feel King’s ability to see and relate the dark aspects of human nature and society is what makes him an author in his own league. The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemptionand even Stand By Me weren’t horror stories, and yet they are some of his finest works.

Author Stephen King- "Yes, he is my hero." Edward Owen, Author

Author Stephen King

THIS is one of the main reasons I pursued a Horror expert to guest post and to teach at WANACon, because no matter which genre we write, the core tenets of good Horror are masterful guides to connecting to and affecting the souls of our readers.

Take it away, Kevin!


In my last posts I shared why I think horror is one of the most important genres, because – maybe more than any other genre – it has the potential to comment deeply on the human experience. In the right hands, horror can hold up a very unflattering mirror and show us what we really are: broken, scared creatures flawed and cracked, a species tragically ruled by fear, prejudice, insecurity, pride, anger, selfishness and cruelty.

And in the right hands horror also shows our better selves rising above our flaws.

Horror plays out supernatural battles between good and evil in the flesh; horror serves as a litmus test for a society or a nation’s conscience. What we truly fear reveals so much about our character, our true natures; as well as how we face those fears and either rise to meet them, or succumb to them.

That is why horror is – or SHOULD BE – hard to write. Emotionally, as well as spiritually.

That’s not to say that writing horror shouldn’t be fun or enjoyable. By no means. I’m not one of those folks you’ll see lamenting on Facebook about the awful “burden of being a writer,” that I’m a “slave to the muse” or that I “wish I wasn’t compelled to write.”

No, I get a kick out of making things up; especially making up stories about ghosts and ghoulies and monsters and those who face them. I feel immensely blessed to have the opportunity to contribute whatever little I can to the horror genre.

What does it “mean” to write horror?

But more and more, as both a writer and an editor, I’ve come to ponder what it really means to write horror, and the difference between a story that invokes that emotion we call horror and a story that merely utilizes horror tropes.

A clarification, first: I am not an elitist. I love reading and stories of all kinds too much to be a “story snob.” And stories utilizing horror tropes can be just as well-written as anything else. Excellent craft – prose, dialogue, characterization and character development – should be present in ALL fiction, regardless of genre.

A paranormal romance or zombie thriller can be just as well written as a wrenching ghost story about a father mourning the loss of his only son.

And also, I truly feel we are called to write certain stories. I’ve always thought writers experience a form of socially-acceptable multiple-personality disorder. A multitude of voices clamor in our heads for attention, characters who want their stories told. Some of those stories are horror stories. Some of them are not.

Some of them are quiet, creeping tales of unnamable dread, others are highly-charged, emotional, personal stories and still others…well…go splat a little more than the rest.


In Danse Macabre, Stephen King makes the distinction between three types of stories – tales of terror, (which he calls the finest emotion), tales of horror and tales of revulsion. Tales of terror never really shows you that thing that’s on the other side of the door. 

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Our reaction to it and how our fears change us and rule us is far more important than the actual thing itself; our imagination doing all the work. Two excellent examples would be W. W. Jacob’s classic tale “The Monkey’s Paw” and Shirley Jackson’s seminal novel The Haunting.  A really wrenching, emotionally-charged modern version of “The Monkey’s Paw” is found in “Forever,” the 17th episode in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 5.


The second tale Stephen King references are tales of horror. The only difference between the two, according to King, is that horror shows us what’s behind that door, and let’s be brutally honest, here. Sometimes we NEED to see what’s behind that door.

I adore Lovecraft’s work, but after awhile, I really need to see that unnamable horror, need to glimpse what that thing is.

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An excellent example of a novel that shows us without sacrificing its power is Hell House, by the late Richard Matheson. We are shown the horror in that book.  Boy, are we shown, and to devastating effect. Also, the movie “Se7en” – staring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman – has become a classic film that’s been poorly imitated for years, and it succeeds by showing just enough (though it’s ultimate triumph – where its imitators fail – is never showing us what’s IN THE BOX, but that’s okay, because we KNOW. And that’s worse than seeing.)


The final tale is that of revulsion. In this tale, almost everything is secondary to that revolting image, serving as a means to that end and nothing more. Stephen King references the old EC horror comics here; I’m going to reference The Human Centipede.

Almost everything in that film serves only to deliver us the image of three people sewn together, mouth to anus. Prepped by the trailers for this, the audience is waiting for that moment, and when it’s delivered halfway through the movie there’s nothing left to wait for, the rest of the film becoming more of endurance test than an actual story.

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However, revulsion still has its place and can be used effectively. In his treatise on the horror genre, The Philosophy of Horror, Noel Carroll asserts that part of horror’s true power lies in its violation of the natural order as we know it.

Revulsion used well (think of that X-files episode with the cannibalistic, inbred redneck family whose sons keep impregnating the bed-ridden mother), confronts us with a violation of what we know to be the natural order of things. An EXCELLENT recent example of this type of revulsion can be found in Kealan Patrick Burke’s acclaimed novel, KIN.

Another good example: William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily.” Because sometimes grief pushes us over the age into violating the natural order of things. Let’s admit; it’s hard to let go of a loved one.

Even when they start to smell…

Another clarification: as a writer, I’m just like all of you – struggling toward that elusive goal of refining my craft. I’ve written my fair share horror trope stories, and I’d like to think they’re good, solid stories. AND, I believe that writing horror trope stories is part of a horror writer’s natural development. But more on that next time ;) ….


Thanks, Kevin! What are your thoughts on all this? What stories (horror or not) have horrified, terrified or repulsed you? I know the recent Tom Cruise movie, Oblivion kept me up almost all night (and it’s sci-fi).

Why? Because I kept thinking, This could happen. And not necessarily from aliens. Technology-wise (I read Popular Science and Popular Mechanics) we are about 3-5 years from perfecting similar drones.

What if this technology landed in the wrong hands? With universal health care and the current trajectory of law enforcement, we could easily have a record of everyone’s DNA on file by 2020. What if our DNA could be programmed into a drone that could scan us and mark us friend or foe?

“Foes” get to be a red mist, btw *shivers*. As I said, TERRIFYING.

I LOVE hearing from you, and I know Kevin will, too. Ask him your questions. Tell him your fears. Comments for guests get double weight in the contest.

Which is…

To prove it and show my love, for the month of September, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Horror Author Kevin Lucia

Horror Author Kevin Lucia

Kevin Lucia has worked as an Editor for Shroud Magazine and a Submissions Reader for Cemetery Dance Magazine, and is now an Associate Fiction Editor for The Horror ChannelHis podcast “Horror 101” is featured monthly on Tales to Terrify and his short fiction has appeared in several venues. He’s currently finishing his Creative Writing Masters Degree at Binghamton University, he teaches high school English at Seton Catholic Central High School and lives in Castle Creek, New York with his wife and children. He is the author of Hiram Grange & The Chosen One, Book Four of The Hiram Grange Chronicles and his first short story collection, Things Slip Through is forthcoming November 2013 from Crystal Lake Publishing.

Ray Bradbury Challenge #12- Note Worthy

I’m tardy this week. I wrote an entire story, almost a thousand words and had to dump it in the bone yard. Couldn’t come up with an ending. It happens. This story literally popped into my head as I looked at the mailboxes lining the street on my way to work at oh dark thirty this morning. Bus ride in, lunch time and bus ride home, edited and read to Goldilocks and Baby Bear. They gave it two paws/thumbs up.

“You’ve got mail”

“You’ve got mail,” the computer voice announced.

Jeff clicked the icon and opened his email. His hand was shaking.




Sweat broke out on his forehead. He had to act before he lost his nerve.

It had all started off with a simple message last year.




He almost dumped the message in the trash. The picture showed the very shoes he had been eyeing for weeks, but on his meager clerk’s salary it would take months to save enough to buy them. The sale was an incredible sixty percent off. He would have to make some sacrifices, but it was worth it.

It was several weeks before he received the next message. Men’s suits on clearance, easy credit terms. He found three that were stylish and flattering with manageable payments. The week after a message announced the opening of a new hair salon, free haircuts to the first six people in line. The stylist talked him into a completely new hair cut.

The next day at work Cindy Maxwell actually smiled and said hi. It was the first time she had said anything to him in the two years he had worked there. He almost spilled coffee down his shirt.

Later, he overheard Cindy mention a play at the local dinner theater. It had been sold out for weeks. When Jeff checked his email that evening, he was shocked to see two tickets for sale on Craigslist. He called the number and had the tickets in hand within the hour. He was more than a little suspicious but decided not to question his good fortune.

The next day, Jeff sauntered into Cindy’s cubicle.

“Hi Cindy.”

“Oh, hi Jeff.”

“I, um, well I wanted to know if you wanted to go with me to see ‘The Player’s Game’ Friday night. I hear it’s really good.”

Cindy stared at him as his heart pounded in his chest.

“I’d love to, but it’s sold out. I couldn’t find tickets anywhere.

Jeff pulled the tickets from his jacket.

“I found two online. The show’s at eight so we have time to have dinner first – if you want to.”

“That would be great,” Cindy said, her eyes sparkling. “And I know just the place.”

They exchanged information and agreed Jeff would pick her up at six o’clock. The remainder of the week was a blur for him. On Friday he received another email.




A chill hit Jeff and he shivered. For the first time he looked for the sender’s email address. He had assumed it was some type of advertising company. The ‘From’ line was blank. He dug through his inbox and located several of the previous messages. None of them showed a sender’s address. In spite of his apprehension he ordered a dozen long stem yellow roses from a florist near Cindy’s apartment.

The evening exceeded all of Jeff’s expectations. A lingering good night kiss on the porch turned into several hours of heartfelt conversation punctuated with more kissing. Their date was the first of many.

The messages guided Jeff to sign him and Cindy up for salsa dancing, a cooking class and a couple’s winery tour in Napa. Ten months later they were married. Her ring was suggested in an email.

The week after their honeymoon Jeff received another message.




He was in line for a promotion and deleted the message without a second thought.

Two day later his inbox flashed with an urgent message:




He stared at the screen as if he could change the words by sheer force of will. When that failed, he hit the delete key. Droplets of sweat beaded on his forehead and ran into his eyes. Rivulets coursed down his back causing his shirt to stick to his skin. Before he could shut his laptop another email appeared:




Jeff’s stomach knotted as he opened the financials for Ferguson. In five minutes he added six thousand dollars to his commission. He prayed the messages would stop. They didn’t. Within a month he embezzled nearly a quarter of a million dollars from numerous client accounts, exposed a coworker who was having an affair and sold part of his company’s marketing plan to a competitor.






Jeff rushed to the bathroom and emptied the contents of his stomach into the toilet. Cindy would never – they were madly in love. Maybe he had been a little distant lately but his life had gotten a bit complicated. He deleted the message and it was replaced by a series of photos. Cindy and another man in a hotel room – his boss! Still more pictures, different men, different locations. Some were friends and coworkers, most were strangers. His nails dug into the palms of his hands as he clenched his fists. All the chances he had taken, risked his job, jail – and this was how she thanked him? The message had it right. She had to die.

He grabbed a knife from the kitchen and stomped up the stairs. Cindy sat at her vanity with her back to the door. Jeff raised the knife and aimed for her back. She turned and his forward momentum was stopped by a thud and a burning sensation in his chest. As he collapsed his dying mind registered the gun in his wife’s hand.


“Detective, look at this.” The CSU tech turned the laptop on the vanity so the other man could read the email message displayed on the screen.




“Somebody saved her life,” said the detective. “Who sent it?”

“No idea. There’s no sender address, not even a server signature. She has a whole file full of messages like this going back almost a year.”

From Kristen Lamb’s Blog- Why Is Horror So Important?–Part Two

‘Borrowing’ from Kristen Lamb again. This series is so good I couldn’t let it pass and not share it with the three of you. Thank you Kristen for keeping Kevin ‘sequestered’ (hope your van has A/C).

Creepiest Twilight Zone Episode EVER!Creepiest Twilight Zone Episode EVER!

Yesterday, we explored the often overlooked genre of Horror with Author Kevin Lucia. Why are we fascinated by being scared? What purpose does the genre of Horror serve? Why is Horror vital to the human condition? Today, Kevin continues as guide into the dark realms of the human condition.

No need for two gold coins for passage. We’re classy that way :D .

And remember, Kevin will be teaching BOTH DAYS at our virtual writing conference WANACon next weekend along with writing legends like Les Edgerton and David Corbett, so get your seat! All the benefits of a writing conference without the hassles.

Take it away, Kevin!


Three years ago, on our annual vacation to the Adirondacks, at Enchanted Forest’s Water Safari, I made an awful mistake that’s haunted me ever since. To make a long story short: my autistic son discovered the kiddie water tubes that summer and fell in love with them. Embolden by this, I took my son – too young to know better – down one of the big slides, Black River Falls. What I wasn’t counting on?

The all encompassing darkness.

The water, which rushed MUCH faster than in the kiddie tubes.

And my son’s screams.

Now, I held my boy in a death grip and we survived, and more than likely we were never in any real danger. But it haunted me (and honestly, it chills me even writing this) wondering what could’ve happened if I’d let him go, my two-year old autistic son who didn’t understand WHAT was going on, much less know how to swim. And of course the shame I felt at my foolish risk nearly overwhelmed me. I felt irresponsible, a horrible father.

Two summers later, Lamplight Magazine solicited me for a novella. I wrote about that incident, imagining a scenario in which my worst fears had come true, and the consquences. And to date, it is one of the hardest things I’ve ever written, and I think one of the best things I’ve ever written, because it hurt so much to write.

Perhaps one of the best reasons why horror is one of the most important genres is how it examines the human condition, by probing our worst nightmares and fears, as well as examining society and humanity – all our best and worst aspects – in close detail.

Good horror takes characters of depth and exposes them to their worst fears, watching closely how they either rise or fall…which speaks (no, SHOUTS) volumes about us as humans.

Though not strictly a horror series, this is why some of the best Twilight Zone episodes reverberate with a haunting resonance that simply won’t let us go. Episodes like Living DollThe MasksThe Shelter, I Am the Night Color Me Black – these aren’t just freaky, weird tales that leave us feeling chills down our spines for thrill’s sake alone.

No, these episodes in particular showed us the dark, ugly side of human nature…they held up mirrors that showed us all our most unsavory aspects.

Rod Sterling

The Twilight Zone has its flaws, but this is why the series endures today in endless syndication: Rod Serling found that horror (along with fantasy and science fiction) provided an excellent vehicle for stories about social consciousness, stories he might not have been able to tell on television otherwise; and like Sterling, scores of horror authors believe their genre allows them to ask questions about that which most of us would rather not even consider:

“What I see is pain and isolation that empowers not the sufferers, but that which afflicts them. I
want a reason for this. I want a reason for babies born with cancer, for the endless supply of thoughtless cruelties both little and large we inflict on one another on an everyday basis, for old folks who are abandoned to die alone and unwanted and unloved.

I want an explanation, please, for all of the soul-sick, broken-hearted people who become so hollowed by their aloneness that they turn on the gas, eat the business end of shotgun, or find a ceiling beam that can take their weight. I want sense made of this. I want to know the reason why…and since none is forthcoming, either from above or those around me, I’ve decided to try and find an answer on my own. So far, the best – the only – way for me to work toward this is through writing horror stories.”

- Gary Braunbeck, To Each Their Darkness (Apex Publications)

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Horror. One of our most important genres, because it comments on our fears and nightmares, on the things that makes us weak, holds up unflinching mirrors to show our inherent ugliness, and dares ask questions about things the rest of us would rather ignore. And, like any other genre, SO many want to write in it.

But writing GOOD horror is hard. SO hard. And even I’m still struggling, myself. But I think I’ve begun to understand the key elements to writing GOOD horror, and that’s what I’ll share next time….


Thanks so much, Kevin! Did you guys grow up watching Vincent Price and those old Edgar Allen Poe black-and-white movies? Did you cut your story teeth on Twilight Zone, too? To this DAY I hate dolls and clowns because of the ventriloquist episode (on top of “It” and “Poltergeist”).

Have you ever had a similar terrifying experience like Kevin? One you later mined for a work of fiction?

As a personal aside, I know my short story Dandelion was written winter of this past year and published in the spring. As a mother, after Sandy Brook, my mind had to give resolution and make some sense of the sheer random horror of the event (for some reason, when I write NF I am very light and funny and my fiction goes DARK and Dandelion I think qualifies as a version of horror, so READER BEWARE if you check it out).

Have you ever had a piece you HAD to write because the sheer terror or emotion of it demanded action? What books, movies, shows influenced you the most as an adult?

I LOVE hearing from you, and I know Kevin will, too. Ask him your questions. Tell him your fears. Comments for guests get double weight in the contest.

Which is…

To prove it and show my love, for the month of September, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Horror Author Kevin Lucia

Horror Author Kevin Lucia

Kevin Lucia has worked as an Editor for Shroud Magazine and a Submissions Reader for Cemetery Dance Magazine, and is now an Associate Fiction Editor for The Horror ChannelHis podcast “Horror 101” is featured monthly on Tales to Terrify and his short fiction has appeared in several venues. He’s currently finishing his Creative Writing Masters Degree at Binghamton University, he teaches high school English at Seton Catholic Central High School and lives in Castle Creek, New York with his wife and children. He is the author of Hiram Grange & The Chosen One, Book Four of The Hiram Grange Chronicles and his first short story collection, Things Slip Through is forthcoming November 2013 from Crystal Lake Publishing.

Ray Bradbury Challenge #11- The Snarfbugle is in Season

With a nod to Lewis Carrol … no, it doesn’t rhyme. I can barely do “Roses are red — “. For an explanation of the Challenge, click here.


The Snarfbugle is in Season


Gilblat’s tentacles writhed in anticipation as the aromas wafted through the air and settled on his glistening skin.

“Oh Hoochit, you have certainly outdone yourself this time,” said Gilblat. “If we do not haggench quickly I will be a puddle on the stones.”

Hoochit ambled about, tending to a number of boiling dugys and fronnets filled with colorful morsels. Her claws and hard shell clicked and clattered over the rough hewn floor.

“For you, my old friend, it is a labor of love. It has been far too long since we shared a haggen. Just a few moments more. Move to the slab and be patient.”

Gilblat did as instructed, keeping three of his six eye stalks focused on Hoochit’s activities.

After a short time, Hoochit trudged in, all six upper appendages loaded with food. She spread it out over the surface of the raised stone. Gilblat’s tentacles fell on the feast shoveling bites into both orifices with a speed born of gluttony. Droplets formed on his skin and dripped toward the floor, forming a puddle beneath him. Hoochit kept busy lugging fronnets and dugys to the slab. One of her appendages accidentally touched the iridescent pool causing her claw to turn white. She scurried into the other room and plunged the afflicted body part into a bubbling dugy until it regained it’s bright minro color.

“Ummmph …tougen slog is so tender … glamph … the best ever … oh, the kleeg is incredibly juicy … Hoochit, you are a genius …” Gilblat spewed compliments along with bits of his meal. As he reached into one of the dugys he shuddered and stopped moving.

“No! It can’t be … Snarfbugle! This above and beyond. How did you manage to find it in season?” Gilblat resumed his haggenching.

Hoochit gave a little giggle, her tail rattling against the slab.

“I have to confess, I did no such thing. I harvested it last season, cut open a weydolling and stuffed the snarfbugle inside to preserve it. Rather ingenious if I do say so myself.”

Gilblat slogged back from the slab and emitted a bright blue gas cloud.

“My sincerest compliments. By far the most chognalagus repast slathered into either of my grenches.”

“Thank you for your kind words. Now, dear friend, I have to bid you farewell,” Hoochit said. She shook, claws and tail flailing against the floor. “I am brooding and the time has come. I regret sacrificing you this way, but my measly shell is not nearly enough to sustain my offspring. Given their appetite, you will not suffer for long.”

Gilblat’s eye stalks snapped toward Hoochit, now writhing on the stones. The back of her shell split open and tiny claws forced their way free of the opening. Hundreds of miniature Hoochits crawled over her body, tearing small pieces off and stuffing them into their mandibles. She disappeared under a swarm of snapping claws and voracious progeny.

The first baby reached Gilblat and sunk its claw into his flesh and attempted to rip a piece free. One of his tentacles snatched the small fry up by the tail. It squirmed in his grip.

“You and your siblings seem to have rather large appetites stuffed into such diminutive bodies. I seem to be in a position of eat or be eaten. Very well.”

Gilblat stretched out one of his grenches and dropped the creature into it. His linkles and dexaton reduced the fry to a mass of red slime in seconds.

“Oh, Hoochit, it would seem you have saved the best for last. Quite grimordial I must say.

After some time, with the stones clear, Gilblat slithered through the portal and headed for his quag. He remembered Hoochit had a sibling.

I wonder if she is planning a brood any time soon?