Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Holidays

Now, that December 21st is behind us and we've survived the predictions of the Mayan calendar, I wish everyone safe and fun holiday season and very Happy New Year. May 2013 be even better.

Brian Moreland

Thursday, December 13, 2012

My Latest Radio Interview

On, December 4th,  I was a guest on  THE HORROR HAPPENS RADIO SHOW. If you missed the show, you can listen to me and JK I talking about writing horror novels. 
Click on this link and look for my name in the top right corner.
"Interview with Horror Author Brian Moreland"!interviews2

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Featured in BTS eMag

An excerpt and book review of DEAD OF WINTER are featured in the Christmas issue of BTS eMag. You can see them on pages 36 and 51.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

New Book Deal for 2013

Good news. I just a signed a contract with Samhain Horror to publish my novella, THE WITCHING HOUSE. It will release in August of 2013. I can't wait to share this one with readers.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


A couple months ago I designed a cover for my upcoming novel   THE DEVIL'S WOODS and submitted it to my publisher Samhain Horror. This week I received the final cover and was happy to see they decided to use my original design. I think the fonts they chose for the title are pretty killer. This novel, which I began writing in college over 25 years ago, will release in the latter half of 2013. Stay tuned.

To read the synopsis and get a sneak peek at the first couple chapters, visit my other blog The Crypt of Horror


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Guest Author Aaron Dries

Today's guest post on Coaching for Writers is horror author Aaron Dries, talking about his novels and three horror classics that impacted his storytelling.  

I received an interesting piece of fan mail the other day from a reader who told me that they would love to read a sequel to my debut novel, House of Sighs someday. It delighted me, really, even though it left me scratching my head. Honestly, a sequel had never occurred to me; I thought I’d wrapped up that story pretty neatly. In a nice, blood-splatted bow, if you like.

But this request brought with it a niggling worm of doubt.

Perhaps the story wasn’t fully told. Maybe yes, I had more to say. House of Sighs was a novel written out of pent-up anger, and I’ll be the first to admit: that anger hasn’t gone away … What happened to the sole survivor on that bus ride from/into hell and what kind of person did they grow up to become? I thought the book implied answers to a great deal of its questions, but I underestimated the reader’s ability to imbue novels with their hunger.

The hunger to know more.

I get that. I really do. And who knows, maybe one day, I’ll get back on that bus and see where it takes me.

In the interim, this all got me thinking about the notion of sequels, and in particular, sequels to famous (or infamous) horror novels. We live in a climate of continuing stories and retellings, which makes sense with horror, a genre founded around the campfire, with each storyteller putting their own spin on well-worn tales. I’m not immune to knowing what happens next, either. When Stephen King releases Doctor Sleep, his sequel to The Shining, I’ll be the first in line. Guaranteed. And it’ll be a hefty hardcover purchase, too. Reading that book in an electronic format just wouldn’t feel right to me. The scary stuff (and I mean, the really serious shit), you want to be able to throw across the room with a scream without running the risk of shattering it. You don’t fuck with those ghosts.

Sequels. Some divide audiences; for every lover there are those who are left disappointed because the questions they had so desperately wanted answered differed from the conclusions they had drawn in their heads. And as difficult as that latter point may be, it’s an author’s right to take the tale where he or she deems appropriate (or inappropriate, as it may be).

So. A question is posed.

Can you think of any literary horror sequels that shook up the collective campfire?

I’ve come up with three examples. Though be warned, there may be spoilers in my spiels. And while my opinions may throw fuel on the fire, revealing previous burns from authors who refused to compromise their vision, I invite you to comment below. Let’s discuss, reader to reader.

I’m a fan boy, and I write with a fan boy’s heart, which is why there are so many nods to Robert Bloch in my newest novel, The Fallen Boys. His influence on my work was instrumental, especially in my younger years. And while I loved a great many of his novels and short stories, for me it was Psycho 2 that solidified Bloch in my mind as the go-to-guy for quality plotting.

At that point in my life (I read Psycho 2 in my mid teens), my idea of horror sequels were limited to Friday the 13th installments (often watched out of order). So the great surprise in Bloch’s carry-on narrative was that there was a narrative present to be enjoyed in the first place.

Enjoyed by some. Universal Studios, for example, were not in the accolade-giving kind of mood in 1982 it would seem. That said, I understand why. Mirrors are often at their most unflattering when they are as polished as that particular book.

Every line of crisp prose, every wit-laced piece of dialog … Bloch layered it all on. He took horror-slasher conventions and turned them on their heads by setting Norman on the road to Hollywood in an attempt to end a movie adaptation of his life and exploits at the Bates Motel (predating the plot of Scream 2 by many years). And the Hollywood of Bloch’s novel is not a flattering place; it’s an unredeemable wasteland, bleached by the harsh Los Angeles sun and sucked dry of any identifiable creativity. Added to this, there’s an utterly shocking Third Act twist, which to this day, keeps me reeling. It’s a deft slash of the Master’s knife, and despite all temptations to do otherwise … I won’t reveal it’s controversial majesty here.

And like some readers, Universal Studios (who had bought the rights to the book in advance) didn’t like the twist, and they especially didn’t like the way Bloch depicted the Hollywood of the time. As a result, they went off and made their own sequel instead (which when you look at it, is a semi-remake of the 1964 film Strait-Jacket – written by none other than Robert Bloch himself!). It was as though Hollywood was determined to never give the author of Psycho the reputation he had so undeniably earned (beginning with Hitchcock buying all available copies of Bloch’s original novel so nobody would know the ending, and continued by Joseph Stefano, who seemed to self-credit himself with so many of the novel’s cleverest plot devices (not to say he didn’t contribute a lot, because he did)). 

But I digress. The novel is a merciless read and wildly satirical; it’s camp in all the right places, while still managing to be scary exactly when it should be. Added to this, there are enough Blochian puns to keep any fan going. Psycho 2 is a sardonic fuck you to an industry that had taken Bloch’s ideas and run them into the ground, over and over and over again.

Second on this list of controversial sequels is Ira Levin’s Son of Rosemary (1990), which was published 30 years after his seminal classic, Rosemary’s Baby. Set in 1999, on the cusp of the new millennium, the novel continues the story of Rosemary Woodhouse, who awakens in a long-term care facility after the death of the last member of the coven who worships her son. She learns she has been in a (perhaps supernaturally induced) coma since 1973, and whilst lost in dreamland, her son, Andy (he with his father’s golden eyes) has become a Kennedy-esque super star. But does this rise to fame come with an agenda? And will Rosemary be welcomed back into his fold?

In a career that spanned 44 years, Levin only wrote seven novels and this was his last. It’s sad that this final novel proved to be such a frustrating footnote in an otherwise consummate catalog. That’s not to say that it’s terrible, because it isn’t. It’s just bitter through and through. It plays its demonic cards well, but collapses under the weight of its surprisingly sluggish pace, which only leads to a denouement we know will come (it really only becomes a horror novel in its final pages) — only to be followed by a mischievous plot maneuver that either confirms Levin as a genius or a literary madman. After even all of these years later, I still haven’t quite made up my mind.

But you have to read it and feel your stomach empty out as that tricky card is played. And then come back here and let me know what you think. Some will be confused; some may be intrigued; but almost any fan will be angry. On that note, I think anger is a powerful emotion for any book to evoke. And I can’t believe that after all of these wonderfully constructed novels, that Levin would descend into hackery in the final pages of his final book. I just can’t. I won’t. That’s why I think (or maybe it’s hope) that there is a mastermind at play in Son of Rosemary’s climax (and the more I think about it, the more I think it might be — but that doesn’t mean I think it was the right decision to make).

Time has unfortunately swallowed this novel whole, as though it would rather concede that it never existed (and time wouldn’t be alone there, I’m sure). And all faults aside, this is a shame. Ira Levin wrote Rosemary’s Baby, one of the greatest horror novels ever written and he alone made the decision to continue that story. Just because people didn’t like it doesn’t mean that future readers should be forced to raid budget bins in the hope of finding a copy, and thus, make up their own minds (though fortunately, the novel has been reprinted). 

I wonder what Mia Farrow, to whom the book is dedicated, thought?

The third and final novel I’ll raise here is Thomas Harris’ sequel to his blockbuster novel, The Silence of the Lambs. Yes, I’m referring to that mammoth volume of depravity and twisted elegance: Hannibal.

I was in the ninth grade when it was released and I can still remember sitting down to read it for the first time and letting my eyes run across the first eerie sentence …

“You would think that such a day would tremble to begin.”

Harris had me at hello. And he kept me all the way to the end.

“We can only learn so much and live.”

Strung between these two sentences was a novel that changed the way I perceived popular fiction, and more than any other book, solidified in my mind that yes, this was what I want to do with my life. I want to write, create and perhaps even disturb or upset. Because that is what that book did to me. I remember feeling hollowed out by its uncompromising final 100 pages. They left me gasping. I remember shaking my head and thinking to myself, “No — he couldn’t. Surely not.”

And yet he did.

I hated it. I couldn’t sleep that night. It was as though I’d suffered an electric shock. The book was a drug upon which I’d overdosed, leaving me a paler shade of myself, trapped in cannibalistic comedown. And like the worst comedowns, it made me want to cry.

Those who have read the book (and not only just seen the film, which differs greatly) will know the turn of events I’m referring to here …

It took me a great deal of time to appreciate Hannibal, although never once in that bitter hiatus was I ever not tempted to pick it up again. It called out to me, luring me closer and closer to its pages, a demonic lullaby that I’m sure would have satisfied Mr. Harris greatly. And when the time came, and I felt ready to re-read it, I did so in an epic single setting — an utterly unique experience. I saw the dance of the prose, the tight plot mechanisms turning me closer and closer to a conclusion I knew was going to happen, yet I wanted so badly to avoid.

I don’t subscribe to the idea that Hannibal Lecter was scarier with his motives withheld. People often described him as a shark, prowling the oceans, merciless and mean … I disagree. Sharks are creatures that eat in order to survive; they don’t hunt people down. There is almost a blind innocence to their carnage.

We’re more terrifying.

By giving Lecter a backstory — by humanizing him — Harris drew a powerful contrast between the titular character and the ghoulish atrocities he enacted. As a reader, I found myself forced into a dark corner, forced to empathize with a monster, who not only destroyed those who deserved to die, but would break the one person Harris was not allowed to break: Clarice Starling. Harris forced us to not only look into the abyss, but to look out at the world from within it.

The Silence of the Lambs was about a number of things, but primarily, it was Starling’s story. There’s a wonderful, fragile tenderness to it, which grows bolder and bolder as the story progresses, eventuating in a plot that reflects its primary character: utterly victorious and incorruptible. So why were people surprised that its sequel would be a very different beast? It was, after all, called Hannibal. Its core isn’t the incorruptible; it’s the utterly corrupt. It isn’t a novel about the victor or the victim; it’s about The Evil, which has a hefty reputation to uphold. The book is an insight into Lecter’s mind, as embodied by a story that more-than-adequately reflects that character’s sensibility, just as The Silence of the Lambs did so for Clarice … And that’s why so many reacted to this book so vehemently. I was among your number, trust me. Evil corrupts even the incorruptible, which is what had to happen in order for Hannibal to succeed.

It just comes at an incredibly high literary cost.

And just like that — I was changed.

These three entirely unrelated books share a kinship, despite their flaws. They are novels that remind me of the power an author has over a reader. And that’s their right to do so; Bloch, Levin and Harris have earned their clout. If they want to hurt, punish and aggravate you, then accept it, because these are not authors in the business of handing out mercy. But remember: that doesn’t mean you have to like it. And one need only scan the Amazon and Goodreads reviews for these three books to see that many don’t.

Psycho 2, Son of Rosemary and Hannibal are examples of sequels that are hard to accept because they are such vivid departures from their original narrative threads. And those threads do run deep, which is why I admire them so strongly. It would have been so easy for any one of these authors to rehash the same story and satisfy an undemanding audience. Instead, they pull on those deeply seeded cords and yank them up through our ever-so-tender flesh, hurting us. Punishing us for their loyalty.

That’s horror for you right there.

* * *

Former pizza boy, retail clerk, kitchen hand, aged care worker, video director and copywriter, Aaron Dries was born and raised in New South Wales, Australia. When asked why he writes horror, his standard reply is that when it comes to scaring people, writing pays slightly better than jumping out from behind doors. His first novel was the award-winning House of Sighs, followed by the recently published, The Fallen Boys, which manages to be just as –if not more–twisted than his debut. He is currently hard at work on a third book.

Feel free to contact him at (, on Facebook or through Twitter. He won’t bite. Much.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Writing Science Fiction and Other Genres

A writer asked me: What goes into writing a sci-fi novel if I come from a literary background?

To write science fiction it's probably best that you didn't come from a literary background, since they are very different genres. Literary novels tend to be slow-paced stories about the human condition. Sci-fi focuses more on future worlds, outter space themes, and includes a lot of science explanation (real or made up).

I think the important things to becoming a sci-fi writer would be to read dozens of sci-fi novels and short stories, so your brain picks up (consciously and unconsciously) the elements of a sci-fi story. Study the masters like Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov, as well as current best-selling authors. Another way to learn is to start writing and get your first draft written, then get feedback from friends, mentors, or writer's groups. I've learned most of my writing skills through hours and hours of writing. Your writing may be rough at first, but you'll eventually get the hang of it. Writing is a skill that can be learned and developed over years.

No matter what genre you're writing, it's good to read other genres to understand story and characterization. Reading thrillers and action adventure novels teach you how to write at an entertaining pace. Mystery novels teach you how to add an element of mystery and incorporate cliffhangers and plot twists to to keep the reader turning the pages. Horror teaches you how to add suspense, dread, and themes surrounding death and confronting our deepest fears.

Reading literary novels help you create characters who come to life on the page and have more depth and heart so readers care about them. Ultimately, I recommend buying a book on how to write science fiction and one on how to plot out a novel. Once you learn the mechanics of novel writing you can break the rules and add your own style to any genre. Many bestselling books these days mix genres.

When I decided to become a horror author, I read as many horror novels and short stories as I could find, becoming exposed to a number of different styles and themes. Then I read thrillers and mysteries, sci-fi, military novels, romance, historical, and some literary novels. As my writing evolved, I've incorporated elements from many genres into my books. I also have read a number of books and articles on how to write horror, mystery, and thrillers. I continue to read how-to books on writing to sharpen my skills.

Whether you're writing sci-fi or other genres, the best thing to do is just start writing. You can always improve as you go. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Lust, Hunger, and Terror in the Canadian Wilderness

My latest novel, DEAD OF WINTER, is a historical horror thriller set in Canada during the blizzard season of 1870. The story is based partly on true events and an old Algonquin Indian legend that still haunts the Great Lakes tribes to this day. It’s also a detective mystery and even includes a couple of love triangles, since I am also a fan of romance and steamy sex scenes.

The Victorian mystery takes place near the end of the 19th Century at an isolated fur-trading fort deep in the Ontario wilderness. Inspector Tom Hatcher, a troubled detective from Montreal, recently captured a deranged serial killer, the Cannery Cannibal. Gustav Meraux is Jack-the-the-Ripper meets Hannibal Lecter. Even though the cannibal has been locked away in an asylum, the case still haunts Tom, so he has moved out to the wilderness, bringing his rebellious teenage son with him. At the beginning of the story, Tom has taken a job at Fort Pendleton to solve a case of strange murders by a cannibal more savage than Gustav Meraux. Some predator in the woods surrounding the fort is attacking colonists and spreading a gruesome plague—the victims turn into ravenous cannibals with an unending hunger for human flesh. In Tom’s search for answers, he discovers that the Jesuits know something about this plague. My second main character is Father Xavier, an exorcist from Montreal. The Vatican sends the priest to Ontario to help Tom battle the Devil’s Plague.

While indeed a work of fiction, I wanted this book to feel real and authentic. Throughout the story I interweave several facts I pulled from history books and an interview I did with a descendent from a Canadian Ojibwa tribe. During my research, I came across some unexplained stories that the Ojibwa and Algonquin tribes all around the Great Lakes region, including Ontario, Quebec, Michigan, and Minnesota, feared a supernatural creature that lives in the woods and stalks people every winter. The tribes migrated every year because of this superstition. This legend also spooked the white fur traders, like the men of Hudson’s Bay Company, who lived in isolated forts all across Canada and traded with the Indians (now called First Nations). In my novel, Fort Pendleton is a fictitious fort named after one my characters, a tycoon by the name of Master Avery Pendleton. When the mysterious killings start plaguing the colonists living within his fort, Pendleton hires Tom Hatcher to solve the case. Tom teams up with an Ojibwa tracker and shaman, Anika Moonblood. She doesn’t believe the killer is a man or animal, but something much more terrifying. In the book, everyone in the neighboring Ojibwa tribe is spooked by the stalker in the woods. I studied the customs of the Ojibwa people of that era, as well as shamanism, and put much of what I learned into the book. To authenticate my priest characters, I studied Jesuit history, demonology, and countless cases of real priests performing exorcisms. From the scriptures I gathered on battling demons, I could probably do an exorcism myself, not that I would ever want to.

As I researched Canada’s legendary evil spirit even deeper, I discovered an article about a real isolated fort in Quebec where all the colonists went crazy and turned cannibal. In the late 1700s, a Jesuit priest who visited this fort documented the case in his journal, describing the deranged colonists as possessed by the devil. This is all factual and documented by the Catholic Church. I also did extensive research on the history of frontier life in Canada in the 1800s. During the long winter months, cannibalism became a way of survival for isolated villages that ran out of food. After consuming human flesh, people often turned insane, or what the Jesuits would describe as “possessed.” Sometimes soldiers would arrive at a fort to find that all the colonists dead except one man, who survived by eating the others.

While my novel is definitely a horror thriller, I mix in other genres like the detective mystery and romance. As Inspector Hatcher hunts for a backwoods serial killer, two women residing at the fort fall in love with him. One is his boss’s wife, Lady Willow Pendleton, a spoiled debutant who hates her cheating husband, Avery. The other woman is Anika Moonblood, the native tracker who has been assigned to work with Tom. Theirs is a love-hate relationship, because Tom only sees Anika as a heathen. To make matters more complicated, she is Avery Pendleton’s mistress, albeit against her will. While Tom feels burning desires for both Willow and Anika, getting involved with either has dangerous consequences, for Master Pendleton is not a man to cross.

I had a blast writing DEAD OF WINTER and I hope you enjoy reading it. My imagination was running wild at the time. I also enjoyed seeing the mystery unfold. When I write, I never know how a book is going to play out. I have a general idea that gets me started writing, but most of the time I’m solving the riddle right alongside my detective. I did my best to make DEAD OF WINTER the scariest book that I could write, while igniting not just fear and terror, but all the emotions to offer readers a truly visceral experience. I am grateful that Samhain Horror released my novel and I’m excited to share this story with readers. Enjoy the adventure!

DEAD OF WINTER is now availble in paperback and e-book.


Brian Moreland writes novels and short stories of horror and supernatural suspense. He lives in Dallas, Texas where he is diligently writing his next horror novel. You can communicate with him online at or on Twitter @BrianMoreland.