Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Guest Post from Hunter Shea

Today’s guest post is by Hunter Shea, one of the rising stars in the field of horror fiction. He’s written several great novels and novellas that every horror fan must read. If you like fun stories with scary monsters and creepy ghosts, I highly recommend you check out the books of Hunter Shea. Here, he’s talking about his latest thriller, The Montauk Monster, which just released in time for the summer.

Have you heard the one about the Everglades skunk apes who got a writer a two-book thriller deal?

Sounds insane, right? Even more so because it’s true.

My debut thriller, The Montauk Monster, came about as strangely as the cryptids that descend on a Long Island town in the book. It’s funny how one set of creatures led to a breakneck tale of another.

Here’s how it went down and how you just never know where life will take you. A couple of years ago, I was watching a marathon of the show Bar Rescue. My editor at Samhain, the legendary Don D’Auria, emailed me around midnight to ask if I had any novellas I’d like to publish. Of course, I didn’t, but in a flash I had this idea about a Bigfoot novel set in the Everglades. Yeah, Bar Rescue marathons and lack of sleep make for great creative inspiration. Don said to go for it, and I set to writing.

A month later, I turned in my manuscript, Swamp Monster Massacre, a love note to the B monster movies I loved and still adore. SMM is filled with a family of angry skunk apes intent on murdering a band of hapless humans who crashed their airboat in the deep of the Everglades. The book is a hell of a lot of twisted fun and has been my most popular to date.

Flash forward to the following year. I get an email from a guy who says he’s an editor. Apparently, he was trolling for ‘new talent’ and had loaded up his kindle with hundreds of ebooks. When all was said and done, he said SMM was the one that stood out and he wanted to know if I’d be interested in working with him.

Now, at first, I thought this was some kind of scam. So, I checked him and his company out. Oh, he was legit all right. I replied that I was interested, and we got to talking. The man made me laugh and we found out we shared the same love for Roger Corman, Irwin Allen and loads of other stuff. Again, I was asked if I had any ideas for a thriller.

I had recently been looking at pictures of supposed Montauk Monsters, strange animal carcasses that have been washing up on the shores of Long Island, NY. I quickly hashed a story concept together. To my amazement, he loved it and we were off to the races. To convince the senior editors in the project, he even printed pictures of the corpses and articles! And sure enough, I not only got the deal, but a two-book deal.

Right away, I started working on the book, powering through it, creating non-stop action with plausible backstories. It was a challenge and a thrill. Best of all, the whole thing was an unexpected gift from above.

Now here it is, already listed as Publisher Weekly’s top reads for summer and in a second printing before the first copy hit the shelves.

And it’s all because of those lovable, murderous skunk apes. Who knew? As R.L. Stine told me (along with the crowd of other writers who paid to hear him), never say no. That proposal you take on could be the one that changes your life.

Hunter Shea is the author of the pulse-pounding new thriller, The Montauk Monster, named as one of the Best Reads of Summer by Publishers Weekly.

His horror novels to date are: The Waiting, Sinister Entity, Swamp Monster Massacre, Evil Eternal and Forest of Shadows. His obsession with all things horrific has led him to real life exploration of the paranormal, interviews with exorcists and other things that would keep most people awake with the lights on. Hunter is also the proud and slightly demented co-host of the Monster Men video podcast. A native New Yorker all his life, he waits with Biblical patience for the Mets to win a World Series. You can read about his latest travails, preview and purchase his books, watch Monster Men episodes and communicate with him without the need for a Ouija board at www.huntershea.com.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Interview with Author Anthony Hains

My guest author today is Anthony Hains, who wrote a great horror novel, Birth Offering.

Brian: Hi Anthony, welcome to my blog. Tell us about Birth Offering. What’s the basic premise? And what compelled you to write this story?

Anthony: Birth Offering is about a fourteen year old boy named Ryan Perry who has just recently lost his father. He and his mom move to his grandmother’s coastal home in South Carolina for a change of pace. Ryan isn’t thrilled with the idea, but what can he do? Not long after the Perry’s arrival, Ryan is haunted by a malevolent entity masquerading as his double. The hauntings become increasingly dangerous with Ryan suffering injuries. It becomes clear that this specter of ancient evil is intent on destroying Ryan. As if this wasn’t enough, Ryan encounters an additional threat: two menacing boys and their caretaker somehow connected to this other twin. Ryan soon realizes that in order to save himself and his family, he must confront this unimaginable evil head on.

My inspiration for Birth Offering came when we were vacationing on Edisto Island, South Carolina. We (my wife, daughter, and I) spent a week there in August of 1995. At the time, Edisto was not a crowd favorite like Kiawah Island, Hilton Head, and Isle of Palms. Whole sections were undeveloped with beach houses and one relatively small resort area. For all that I know, it may still be that way, which makes it the best kept secret of the South Carolina coast. I hope so. One day we came across the most beautiful road… unpaved and densely lined with live oak trees that were shrouded with Spanish moss. Beyond the live oaks, there were palmettos and other tropical kinds of bushes and trees. The impact of the vegetation was practically cathedral-like. The oak branches met across the road, and the sunlight barely peeked through the hanging moss. It was breathtaking. My wife proclaimed it beautiful, and the only thing I could think about was, “wouldn’t this be a cool setting for a passage in a horror novel?” I visualized someone on the road being stalked, and then chased by something in the vegetation which was gradually working its way towards the road. That imagery stuck with me for years, and ended up in Birth Offering – almost exactly like I had remembered it years earlier.

Brian: The islands off the coast of South Carolina sound intriguing. I’ll have to travel there and explore them. Is anything in your novel based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

Anthony: Fortunately, the work is entirely based on imagination. Of course, there are minor personal experiences that make it into the book – like seeing the road in South Carolina which gave me the initial idea.

Brian: I’m always amazed what you can come up with when you tap into your imagination. What kind of research did you do?

Anthony: I tried to draw on my knowledge as a psychologist to inform the emotions and behavior of my characters. So, I didn’t have to research that aspect. For instance, my main character is a 14-year-old boy. I am a pediatric psychologist, and have spent my career researching various issues related to adolescence. However, when I came to sections of the novel that involved some aspect of the plot that couldn’t be addressed by psychology (and there were many), I was constantly searching the internet and trying some personal mini-experiments to see if a certain sequence of events was possible.

Brian: Do you have a specific writing style?

Anthony: Since I am a psychologist and a university professor, this means my writing style is that of an academic researcher. Specifically, for the past thirty plus years, I have been writing empirical research articles in APA format (American Psychological Association). In order to write fiction, I had to be on my guard not to slip into scholarly manuscript writing and instead wear my fiction writing hat. I am not sure what I would call that style – since I am still trying to master it.

Brian: What books have influenced your life most?

Anthony: The most significant influences in the realm of horror are probably the earliest ones. In my senior year of high school, two novels came out nearly simultaneously: The Other by Thomas Tryon and The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. While I had always been a horror movie and monster movie fanatic as a kid, these two books more than any others initiated me into the joys of reading horror. I still regard them as classics. Since then I’ve enjoyed Stephen King for the most part, especially his earlier works and, strangely enough, his very recent works.

In terms of non-horror, I can rattle off a number of titles that moved me at the time I read them and still do today: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, and In Cold Blood. Interestingly enough, I read these in high school as well. More recently, I have enjoyed the three ‘Colorado’ novels written by Kent Haruf. His latest, Benediction, is an emotionally powerful novel. Finally, Skippy Dies by Paul Murray is probably one of the best books about adolescents. It is simultaneously hilarious and troubling – and informed my fictional writings of teenage characters.

Brian: Describe your path to becoming a published author.

Like many others, this was something I always wanted to do, but I never saw it as a career. However, the initial “nudge” occurred way back in my senior year in college when I took a short fiction writing course. For decades after that class, I always tossed around plots in my head, and even attempted to write once or twice. But, I could never sit still long enough. Finally, about five years ago, I took the plunge and began writing fiction for real.

Things really took off when we became empty nesters. I was able to schedule regular times for writing and always had a plan to write a certain number of words a day. I wasn’t focused on publishing the book, believe it or not. I wanted to see if I could actually complete the task. Once I finished a first draft of Birth Offering, I thought “why not?” So I started investigating the idea of trying to publish the book.

Needless to say, I was naive. The process was long and time consuming – with tons of rejections for agents and publishers. Finally, Damnation Books said ‘yes’.

Brian: Is writing your career or a hobby?

Anthony: I have a career as a psychologist and professor. So, I cannot say I have a career as a writer too. When I think of the word ‘hobby’, though, I think pastime.  I wouldn’t say that either. I take it seriously, and plan to continue.

Brian: How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?

Anthony: Like millions of others trying to promote their work, I have turned to social media. I’ve created a web page where I attempt to blog fairly regularly. I review other horror novels and novellas in my blog, in an effort to “give back to the field”.  I’ve joined GoodReads and try to take part in some horror-themed discussion groups. My only problem is that I do not have enough time to regularly contribute to those discussions. There are some very knowledgeable readers in those groups, and I have learned a lot from them. In addition, you will find me on Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, etc.

Brian: Can you tell us something you enjoy doing when not writing?

Anthony: When I’m not writing, I enjoy relaxing with my family and reading (often horror stories, but not always).

Brian: Do you have any advice for other writers?

Anthony: I wish I had some profound advice for other writers, but I really don’t. The cliché responses are the best I can come up with. Stick to it, don’t give up, carve out time for you to write on a regular basis – every day if possible, set a goal… Those are the things that have kept me on task.

Brian: Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Anthony: Thank you for taking the chance to read an unknown writer’s work.

Brian: Birth Offering was a great debut novel. Do you have a new book coming out soon? Tell us about it.

Anthony: I just completed the editing process of Dead Works with my editor at Damnation Books. Dead Works tells the tale of a teenager in therapy because he is seeing ghosts. I realize this sounds like the movie The Sixth Sense, but the plot is considerably different. My professional life contributed a chunk of the source material. The psychologist character is a graduate student in counseling psychology who was working on his PhD. The young therapist is doing his practicum placement at the university counseling center and he is assigned a teenage client who is seeing ‘things’.  I regularly teach a Practicum course where the students are being supervised while they provide therapy. Much of the context for the novel takes place within the counseling relationship between the teen and the student therapist; the story is told from the graduate student’s point of view. The book was a lot of fun to write.

Brian: Sounds like a great story. I’m looking forward to when Dead Works releases. Anthony, thanks so much for stopping by and sharing about your books. For readers who have yet to discover Anthony Hains’ horror fiction, check out Birth Offering which is now available on Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com and wherever books are sold.


Anthony Hains is a university professor in counseling psychology, with a specialization in pediatric psychology – his research involves working with youth who have a chronic illness. He is married with a daughter in college. Birth Offering his is first novel.  


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Beating the Writing Blues

Today, guest writer Claire Fryer shares some tips on how writers can avoid or get out of depression: 

Most professions come with at least some health and safety risks. Although many people wouldn’t immediately associate writing with danger, evidence suggests that it can be a risky business in terms of mental health with rates of depression and anxiety being particularly high among those of us in the writing community. There are many factors thought to contribute to this, including an isolated working environment, irregular pay and consequent financial worries. Not to mention the intense internal pressure that comes with a career in writing, such as self doubt, fear of rejection and the dreaded writer’s block that sometimes engulfs us all.

Depression can be a shattering condition for anyone, but for a writer it can seriously impair their creativity, motivation and sheer ability to write, which will affect their confidence and their career in a vicious cycle. For this reason it is important to stay positive and take action against things that may cause or worsen depression if you want to keep writing. Here are some tips on how to do just that.

Create a healthy work space

Writers spend the majority of their time in their workspace – whether that be an office, a spare room or simply a desk. Because it is generally a sedentary job it is important to make sure that the environment, tools and equipment that you are working with are fit for purpose. Not only will this keep you physically healthy but it can help improve your mood too. Ensure that the area in which you write is well lit – ideally with natural light but if this is not possible opt for full spectrum lighting as this is more like natural sunlight than florescent lighting. 

Keep the font size and resolution on your PC (if you use one) as large and clear as possible to avoid eye strain and maintain a good posture by investing in a good quality, adjustable chair to support the back and arms. Many commercial office blocks now also include green plants in their offices where possible, as not only do they improve the aesthetic appearance of the office but they detoxify the air and increase oxygen too. This makes the air cleaner which will help fend off bugs and germs, as well as keeping you alert and motivated.

Take on extra work

When a writer is caught up in a novel it can be all consuming and highly stressful. Taking on more work and responsibility may not sound like an appealing thought but it can help you gain perspective by taking breaks from your novel whilst still ‘working’ and being productive. This will allow you to have a little distance from such a mammoth task while still honing your craft and building your portfolio. 

Take on extra freelance writing work if possible. Writing for wait.co.uk and other content providers often enables you to take on as much or as little work as you can manage, and this ‘no pressure’ approach can be ideal for working around your other commitments at your own pace and earning a little extra income, which will also alleviate any financial concerns. 

Remember that writing often begins as a hobby, so do not lose your love for it. Make time for the areas that excite or interest you even if they aren’t completely relevant to your workload. If you enjoy writing poetry for example then make sure you continue with it even if you are busy.

Take regular breaks

Lack of sunlight, little exercise and bad diet are all factors that can exacerbate low mood, so drag yourself away from your work at regular intervals and go outside! A brisk lunchtime stroll will increase the production of serotonin in the brain, and so your feel-good endorphins will start flowing and leave you pumped up and motivated for an afternoon’s work. 

The beauty of being a writer is that you can pick your own hours. But do try to work to some sort of a schedule that allows you to take time out for breaks and meals. It can be easy to snack at your desk, but maintaining a well balanced diet full of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and protein-rich meat will not only benefit your physical health but your mental health too.

Seek medical help

Lifestyle tips can go some way to relieving the symptoms of depression, but in all cases it is beneficial to seek professional advice from a counselor or doctor. Cognitive therapy and medication can often be necessary to help fight and manage depression in order to allow to you live a normal life and continue with your career. Be wary of taking any tranquilizers or mood suppressing drugs though as these may harness your creativity without effectively treating your depression.

Utilize support

For anyone suffering from depression, social support from family, friends or support groups can often help alleviate symptoms. Writing can be a very isolating career, and so once again it is important that you remember to take breaks and make the effort to interact with people. Conversation and interaction are proven to boost self esteem, reduce anxiety and consequently leave the sufferer feeling less stigmatized by their condition.

Special thanks to Claire Fryer for sharing this article with Coaching for Writers. I welcome guest writers. If you are a writer and would like to contribute an article offering tips about writing, publishing or marketing books to this blog, contact Brian(at)BrianMoreland(dot)com. Have a great day!