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Published September 10, 2021 by Omnium Gatherum The Scream Teens are hired to raise the dead as the necro-tainment for a zombie cruise, and ...

Published September 10, 2021 by Omnium Gatherum

The Scream Teens are hired to raise the dead as the necro-tainment for a zombie cruise, and the eighteen-year-old animator, Cozy Coleman, is bitten by a shapeshifting she-wolf. To Cozy’s surprise, she survives and with the aid of her friends, helps the government stop a human-extinction virus from spreading. Unfortunately, Cozy uncovers a secret so haunting, that her death is only the beginning of her problems.

accurately portraying mentally ill characters

by Nzondi

13 Reasons Why tackled issues like suicide and bullying head on, yet still presented it in a way that got popular culture talking about these issues, which was the most important asset to helping real-life youths open up a dialogue with teachers, parents, and health professionals. In writing this article, I learned many things to do and not to do when writing about mental health issues. I recommend that all authors research these dos and don’ts before writing about any characters that have mental health issues.

As a horror writer, however, you may feel like your story is not there to preach, teach, or raise awareness. However, given the fact that there have been documented accounts of novels causing an increase in the rate of contagion, wouldn’t you want your literary themes to reflect a more accurate perspective?

Look, I get it. I’ve worked as a stand-in on a show called “How To Get Away With Murder,” and I have had many conversations with attorneys who say that the show is too sensational, especially in the courtroom. I’m like, “Thank goodness the creator of the show doesn’t depend on you to write their episodes. We’d be bored out of our minds!” They are the same people who can’t suspend disbelief long enough to get past the fact that when Bruce Banner changes into the Hulk, he’s always in those purple short-pants, instead of being nude.

We are writing fiction, aren’t we? We create a way for the reader to escape reality and travel to worlds of fantasy, science fiction, dystopia, and horror. Still, when writing about characters and stories involving mental health, shouldn’t we ask questions that breathe life into the “who, what, when, and how” of the tropes we use?

So how do we get it right?

Here are some facts to know about mental illness by Kathleen S. Allen, an author who also has a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree (which is a clinical doctorate):

  • Having depression doesn’t mean your character can’t still have fun or laugh or be social.
  • A character who has bipolar disorder may have manic episodes or they may not. Bipolar disorder has a spectrum of symptoms from moderate depression to severe.
  • No one who has Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly called split personality) would kill someone when they are in one of their alter personality states unless the core personality would also kill.
  • Your character would not have amnesia after killing someone. The disorder is rare, and some medical professionals don’t believe it exists at all, so be careful using it.
  • Talking about suicide does not mean your character will push the person into attempting suicide. It was already on their mind.
  • Your characters don’t stop hearing voices immediately after taking anti-psychotic medication.
  • Sometimes, they won’t stop at all. It may take weeks to months for the meds to work. If they are having a psychotic episode, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to function in their daily lives by going to school, work, maintaining a romantic relationship, or maintaining any relationship. Psychotic patients are not dangerous. Are there exceptions? Yes. But as a general rule, they aren’t.
  • In conclusion, one of my biggest takeaways from researching horror writing for Mental Health Awareness Month was some of the things we shouldn’t do.
  • For example, unless your character is politically incorrect, don’t describe suicide as an “epidemic”, “skyrocketing,” or other exaggerated terms.
  • Use words such as “higher rates” or “rising.” Don’t describe suicide as “without warning” or “inexplicable.”
  • Do convey that the character exhibited warning signs.
  • Don’t refer to suicide as “unsuccessful” or “failed attempt,” or report it as though it were a crime. Do say, “died by suicide,” “killed him/herself,” and instead of presenting the act like a crime, write about suicide in your story as a public health issue.
Hopefully, as horror authors, we can continue to scare the jeebies out of our readers, but at the same time, create a story which accurately exhibits archetypes of mentally ill characters, whether they are mad scientists, psychopathic serial killers, or characters with dissociative identity disorders that assume their mother’s personality.

Born Acemandese Nzondi Hall on the Fourth of July, Nzondi (Ace Antonio Hall) is an American science fiction/horror author, singer and songwriter. He is the first African-American to win a Bram
Stoker Award in a novel category for his young adult book, Oware Mosaic. A former English teacher and Director of Education for NYC schools and the Sylvan Learning Center, Nzondi earned a BFA from Long Island University. Crossroad Press reprinted his novel Oware Mosaic in 2023. His zombie novel, Lipstick Asylum, (Omnium  Gatherum Media, 2021) and his other works can be
found on his website: AAntonioHall (dot) com..

Published May 15, 2018 by Rockhill Publishing LLC She's back and this time she brought a friend... The story continues: the sequel to Th...

Published May 15, 2018 by Rockhill Publishing LLC

She's back and this time she brought a friend...

The story continues: the sequel to The Mistress of the Rock, is The Revenge.

Still smarting from Richard Cole's rejection, Aphrodite plans a series of events that will bring about his return to the island. Only this time, his welcome will not be so warm, as he will have to battle bureaucracy and the islanders' contempt for the devastating aftermath of his chance discovery and his sudden departure. In addition, he confronts his internal demons, and with his return to Cyprus, might completely consume him.

For Aphrodite is set upon a path of cold vengeance and summons the Scylla, a legendary cryptid of the deep, to do her bidding. The creature wreaks havoc on the once idyllic coast of Cape Greco and the tourist resorts of Ayia Napa, Protaras, and Paphos.

Richard must not only face his devils but also the goddess, if he is to stop the terror that now lurks in the Mediterranean's crystal-clear waters.

But how is he going to do it?

Itching to write! 

by Myron edwards

Writing is like an itch, you know you want to scratch it, but you are afraid if you do it might bleed. That would be messy, so you ignore it. Till the next time. 

The problem is to use a much-overused metaphor that itch won't go away. Once the bug bites it is difficult to ignore. So what do you do about it? 

The best possible solution is to write down your thoughts. They may not have anything to do with your story, but what they do is get you used to putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. This is a good way to start the whole writing process. 

Some folks are fortunate they can just sit down and write without any pre-planning. But for new writers practice is essential. 

Look not everyone can write, in fact, most give up before Chapter Two. Why?
Because it is not easy. Writing like all things in life is a skill. 

Of course, the rules can be taught, that is the practical side, but the creative side is something different. Everyone has a story they can tell or a book in them so they say.  The difficult part is bringing that out. 

How to begin! The first question you ask yourself is why do I want to write this book? Is it to bring me fame and fortune or is that my story needs to be read by someone other than myself? If your answer is in the former fame and fortune, then you will need to have something unique and original. Plus, you will need an agent, a publisher, a promoter, an editor, and be in demand. 

So let’s go back to basics, what is your book about? Is it a true story, sometimes these stories are very popular and work well, is your book fiction and what genre is it?  Horror, fantasy, romance, war, history, to name but a few. Whatever the subject you will need to do some research. Why? because the more depth you can put into your story the more compelling it is to read, it is like building a house it won’t stand without the right foundations, the same is true when writing your book, build the story bit by bit. 

Now some people are lucky they can just sit down and type away, building the story as they type for most of us we need to gradually build the story chapter by chapter, introducing characters as we build.  

So plotting the book can be very useful, this way not only can you introduce characters into your story but you can integrate the action so that you can see what dialogue the character would use. 

Another useful tip is to use what they do in the movies and create character ARCS, this is basically the story of the character, from his or her beginning through the plot line, and shows what happens to them and how it affects the story and how they react with the other characters in the book. 

This way you will become more involved in the book because you are starting to see how the character and action evolves. Each chapter has a beginning middle and end as with the whole book so you want to make sure that what you are writing is a page-turner. Keep dialogue and action smart. 

This type of planning will help you become linked to the characters in your story and you will find it easier to write about them, it also is invaluable to the plot.  

Unlike the movies where everything is available to see and hear, a book is all about imagination, you must be able to conjure the feeling of what you are writing about, and believe it because if you don’t believe it how do you expect the reader too?  

Which brings me to my next point and probably the most important one of all? Writing is hard, no matter how talented you are, and no matter how good you are, you will at times struggle, you will doubt yourself, and you may even experience writer’s block, which means you are not able to write anything at all. 

But set aside these thoughts for a moment and consider this, once you start down the road to writing your book be it fiction or fact, you will need to sacrifice your time and your friends and family because writing is a solitary experience, for me it is the only way I can write.  Some people are fortunate that they can work with others around them and it doesn’t affect them, but from what I have learned most writers are solitary figures, with one aim to finish their story.   

So before embarking on this adventure consider what writing means to you and what is your objective.  And if you feel that itch coming on, scratch it.  

Born in 1952 in Orsett, Essex in England, the youngest son to Welsh parents Iris and Bill Edwards. Upon leaving school, he went into the travel industry, where he travelled the world, working in travel agencies, tour operators and airlines for some 30 years. In 1976 Myron began freelance writing for BBC, radio and television, his credits include the Two Ronnies, Week Endings, and the News Huddlines. In 1980, he joined JWT advertising, as a copywriter writing his first TV commercial for dog food inside 10 days.  His love for the creative never left him and in 1987 he created Tubewalking, a new map concept, to help people get around London easier on foot, which still operates today. In 1990 he married Niki, whose family background is Greek Cypriot.  On a family trip to Cyprus, visiting Aphrodite’s Rock for the first time, the beginnings of his passion to write the story of Mistress of the Rock came into fruition. Moving his family in 2005 to Cyprus to live, gave him the opportunity to write, as during this time he worked on campaigns for TV and Radio in an advertising agency in Limassol. The first manuscript of the book was completed in 2007, released by a local publisher it had a limited audience, but was well received by those who had read it. He has now completed the sequel and is working on the third part of this story. Myron has three children, two sons and one daughter all grown up.

Published March 15, 2023 by Shadowpaw Press Reprise The first English edition of the popular young adult novel Les fantômes de Spiritwood, o...

Published March 15, 2023 by Shadowpaw Press Reprise

The first English edition of the popular young adult novel Les fantômes de Spiritwood, originally published in French by Éditions de la nouvelle plume , translated by the author One summer night, Ethan and four friends are heading north of Spiritwood, Saskatchewan, for a weekend of camping to watch the northern lights, but their car swerves off the road and ends up in the ditch. The teenagers head back to Spiritwood on foot, but a severe thunderstorm strikes before they reach the town, forcing them to break into an abandoned country school to take shelter. After exchanging scary stories for a while, they fall asleep. When they wake a few hours later, the storm is over and the sky is filled with bright-coloured northern lights. Ethan recounts the legend of the northern lights. "Those lights are produced by the spirits of the departed. It's a sign that they want to communicate with the living. To establish contact, we just have to whistle at them." Then, Ethan produces a spirit whistle that he had bought at Wanuskewin, and he starts to whistle at the sky. Moments later, weird things begin to happen...

Curiosity Kills the Cat but Benefits the Writer
by Martine Noël-Maw

It all started when my then boyfriend took me for a drive in the Qu’Appelle Valley, in southern Saskatchewan, Canada. Recently transplanted from Québec to Wester Canada, I had heard all kinds of intriguing stories about an old sanatorium located on the shore of Echo Lake, near the village of Fort Qu’Appelle.

The sanatorium, named Fort San, had opened its doors in 1917. The institution resembled a village, with many pavilions scattered in the valley along the lake shore. It included a nurses' residence, a visitor lodge, doctors and employees’ homes, and even a one-room school, a theatre and a library. It was even equipped with its own radio station, thanks to the ingenuity of some patients that had a lot of time on their hands. It would broadcast original programming performed by patients.

Maybe it is the location of the sanatorium, isolated in the fold of the hills, which contributed to its aura of mystery. According to many people, “The San” as it was familiarly called, was host to many ghosts. I heard numerous stories, starting with one from my neighbour, a respectable mother of three, who had stayed at The San, after it was converted into the Echo Valley Conference Centre. She was the sole occupant of a room with two single beds. One night, she got up to go to the bathroom and when she came back to her room, she was shocked to see a little boy dressed as a cowboy, including boots, hat and fake revolvers, sitting on the bed next to hers.

Around the same time, a friend of mine attended a conference at The San with a group of college students. Someone took a picture of her and two of her classmates. The picture is very good but also very spooky: the student sitting next to my friend, a girl in her early twenties, looks like a 90-year-old woman, with a wrinkly face and scruffy white hair... I saw the picture and it sent shivers down my spine.

The most famous ghost story related to The San is the one of Nurse Jane. According to some sources, the young woman would have hung herself from a tree, in front of the nurses’ residence. According to others, she hung herself in a bathroom located on the third floor of the children’s pavilion. What is really intriguing is the fact that, according to many, children could see her at the window. A witness told me that in the morning, they would wave at her ghostly figure as they were walking to school.

Being a French literature graduate and having grown up with a ghost in my living room, I have always been interested in that kind of story. So, the day my boyfriend took me to Fort San, after I walk the grounds of this mythical site, I told him: “This is it! I know what my first novel is going to be about.” That visit triggered my curiosity like nothing before. It launched me on a research journey that lasted nearly five years. My first novel, Dans le pli des collines was published in 2004. It became an award-winning book and was published in English in 2013 under the title In the Fold of the Hills (Ekstatis Editions of Victoria, British Columbia). The book is still taught in college, and I am always happy whenever a ghost-lover reader reaches out to me.

What set me on the path to becoming a professional writer is my insatiable curiosity. And I didn’t stop with that first book. Since then, I have spent years researching characters like Will James and Louis Riel. I even embarked on two walks on the Camino de Santiago, in Spain, to write the story of a pilgrim. All this to say that although curiosity may be bad for cats, it has given me the gift of a very rewarding and fulfilling career. As I write these lines, I am anxious to find out where my curiosity will take me next.

© Martine Noël-Maw 2023

Born and raised in Québec, Martine Noël-Maw has called Saskatchewan home since 1993.

A French literature graduate from the Université de Montréal, she has authored seventeen books and a number of plays for both adults and youth, in French and English. Her work has earned her many honours, including two Saskatchewan Book Awards and a SATAward.

Shadowpaw Press Reprise of Regina recently published the first English edition of her popular YA novel The Ghosts of Spiritwood.

Martine is also an editor and translator. Find her online at

Published November 21, 2022 LAYERS OF INSPIRATION BY KEITH ANTHONY BAIRD Living as I do in England’s Lake District area, I’m immersed in a ...

Published November 21, 2022


Living as I do in England’s Lake District area, I’m immersed in a truly inspiring region which is matched in its beauty by a rich history going back into antiquity. Quite aside from the breath-taking scenery which includes rugged mountains, sprawling lakes, lush forests, and rolling hills, there’s a lore which permeates every glade and valley. The Romans were here, as evidenced in their lasting marks upon the landscape. The Celts too, with numerous stone circles dotting the moors and fells which speak of druidic rites and a shadowy nature we’ll never fully understand.

As a writer in the sphere of dark fiction there’s much in the way of inspiration to draw upon. Just about every major town here has some trace of its glorious past still intact. Castles, inns, and manor houses litter the countryside, each with a story dating back centuries. And it’s in these settings we find tales of the supernatural which provide yet another layer of interest to an already overflowing pot. With its annual visitor numbers in the millions, the district plays host to tourists from all corners of the globe. Many experience encounters with what can only be described as the ‘otherworldly’. 

One well-known spot is Kirkstone Pass. The gateway to Patterdale valley, the pass is often closed in harsh winters due to its lofty position. In days of yore, it would have been treacherous for those travelling on foot or by horse-drawn carriage, and one such tale has given rise to a particular haunting which has become synonymous with the inn there. It is the story of Ruth Ray, who was on her way from Patterdale to see her sick father with her small child in tow. As so often happens, the weather unexpectedly took a turn for the worst and snow quickly fell, making it impossible to walk in any direction with certainty. When Ruth had not returned home, her husband set out to look for her, only to find her frozen and lifeless. The baby was wrapped up heavily and survived. To this day, Ruth still haunts the Kirkstone Inn. It is thought she warns walkers of the weather and the dangers of the pass.

Another tale tells of a young boy who was killed by a coach outside the inn. It is reported that a photograph of a 17th century coachman was captured while he was lurking in the bar. The ghost was apparently the great, great grandfather of the family who took the picture, and it’s said that his spirit followed the visiting family home. There are accounts too of a grey lady and the ghost of a hiker who once worked at the inn, who is believed to be the culprit of poltergeist activity there. Another restless spirit is that of a woman who was hanged nearby for the murder of her child. It’s said she haunts the tree on which she met her end.

Tales of the Kirkstone Inn are just a few of the many which are commonplace in an area steeped in such a rich heritage. The aforementioned castles and manor houses have their fair share of hauntings too, and even the very hills themselves, according to a number of sightings. If legend is to be believed, the fellside on the edge of Blencathra mountain is home to a ghostly procession that has been witnessed on a few occasions at Midsummer. The first time they were seen is said to have been during the evening of Midsummer's Day in 1735, where a servant claimed to have watched a line of soldiers, both on foot and horseback, marching their way across the fell.

So it’s easy to take inspiration from everything around me here in the Lake District. I sincerely hope my fellow writers, wherever you are, have an equally wonderful setting in which to thrive in your writing.

Keith Anthony Baird is the author of The Jesus Man: A Post-Apocalyptic Tale of Horror (Novel), Nexilexicon (Novel), And a Dark Horse Dreamt of Nightmares (Book of Shorts), This Will Break Every Bone In Your Heart (Novelette) and Snake Charmer Blues (Short), and a psychological/horror novella titled A Seed in a Soil of Sorrow. His works can be found on Amazon and Audible.

The Diabolica Britannica horror anthology was his brainchild, in which you will find his own contribution Walked a Pale Horse on Celtic Frost. 2021 saw the release of the Diabolica Americana and HEX-PERIMENTS anthologies, the latter in partnership with author Ross Jeffery.

His dark fantasy novella In the Grimdark Strands of the Spinneret is coming from Brigid’s Gate Press in November 2022.

He is currently querying a dystopian/cyberpunk novella titled SIN:THETICA and writing a vampire-themed novella called A Light of Little Radiance in collaboration with fellow British author Beverley Lee.

He lives in Cumbria, in the United Kingdom, on the edge of the Lake District National Park.


The Two-Dollar Hustle by Heather and S.D. Vassall Pirating an author’s manuscript is what I refer to as a two-dollar hustle. You steal someo...

The Two-Dollar Hustle by Heather and S.D. Vassall

Pirating an author’s manuscript is what I refer to as a two-dollar hustle. You steal someone’s work, sell it, collect your profits, and call it a day. Career pirates will sell their ‘booty’ through other sites quickly; that way they make money, not only from their first upload—that will most likely be taken down within sixty days—but through those secondary sources which might never be removed.

It’s not sexy or glamorous, and it doesn’t provide large sums of money like a big heist, but unlike a heist, it’s a low risk enterprise. And, best of all, it likely provides a steady stream of cash. One two-dollar hustle might not bring in big bucks, but a few hundred of them and the pirate has sustainable income flowing in. Most pirates are career criminals They’ll set up 100 two-dollar hustles over the course of a weekend. Even better for the pirate is the fact that their income is tax-free.

It’s hard to protect a manuscript from being pirated. What makes it worse is the large corporations make piracy easier. They tend to have loose policies and multiple departments that don’t communicate with each other. It’s common to get bounced back and forth between departments till you finally reach someone who can finally get the situation resolved. We spent the last week sending email after email, talking to reps from different departments, filling out forms, and the process is still ongoing.

It's disheartening that there’s so much piracy taking place in the book industry. The pirates aren’t going to quit. They’ve found their niche and they’re going to stay there. And the ones running their two-dollar hustles aren’t really worried about what might happen to them. They’re good at their business, and they tend to remain anonymous, even when their acts are discovered. The worst that generally happens to them is their pirated book gets taken down. They aren’t worried about legal actions or punishment; corporations and law enforcement agencies generally aren’t going to devote much energy, time or resources towards tracking down and punishing someone doing a two-dollar hustle.

We, as authors and publishers have to keep trudging forward. We have to keep writing and
publishing. We have to stay diligent in our best efforts to protect our work. It’s hard, and it can be disheartening, but we have to keep moving forward. The only way we’ll have any success against piracy is to keep striving. It takes patience. And tenacity—remember that word!

Our emotions have run the gamut this week from shock to fear to disbelief and finally to rage. How dare someone do this to one of our authors! How dare someone do it to us! We’ve spent twenty plus hours talking to four different departments at Amazon, filing copyright  infringement claims, searching for other pirated copies online, updating readers, and working with our publicist and lawyer. We’ve talked to other publishers and authors. We’ve agonized over how to protect our other authors and the next two upcoming book launches. It was exhausting. But we’re not giving up; we’ve got loads of tenacity (if you only remember one thing from this article, remember that word!).

We’ve put together a survival list for publishers, for if and when they get plundered by pirates. 

Many thanks to Andrew at Dark Lit Press for the tips he provided.

What you’ll need to survive piracy:
  • Coffee. Don’t skip this step.
  • Open communication with the author and/or artist. Remember that the theft effects you
  • both, but for them this is bigger than that. This is a violation.
  • Make sure your whole team knows, including your publicist, bookkeeper, and lawyer.
  • Continually update your team.
  • The contract between the author and publisher.
  • The contract between the cover artist and the publisher or author.
  • Screenshot of where you got the ISBN (be sure to get your own ISBN).
  • Screenshot of any other dashboards where you have the book published.
  • A cease-and-desist letter from your lawyer.
  • The tenacity (don’t forget this word) to keep calling and keep submitting forms over and over again.
  • A sense of humor.
  • A support group. Reach out to other publishers, editors, and authors you know. Gather as many tips as you can.
  • The tenacity (there it is again!) to keep calling and keep submitting forms over and over again.
  • Learn to channel your rage and frustration into perseverance.
  • Patience.
  • Sleep.
  • Exercise and/or meditation of some kind. Self-care is key if you’re going to keep fighting.
  • The tenacity to keep calling and keep submitting forms over and over again (we’re tenacious in our attempts to make sure you remember tenacity!).

We hope other writers and presses don’t have to deal with their work being pirated. Unfortunately, as common as piracy is, most of you will have to deal with it at some point. Just remember—if and when it happens—not to lose heart or give up. Be patient, be tenacious (we can’t stress that enough!), and keep moving forward. It’s all we can do.

Ad astra per aspera!

Published  November 1, 2022 by Windstorm Press Jane’s nightmares are back—and this time, they’ve unleashed a brutal killer. Jane Walker’s ni...

Published November 1, 2022 by Windstorm Press

Jane’s nightmares are back—and this time, they’ve unleashed a brutal killer. Jane Walker’s nightmares aren’t imaginary—they’re glimpses into the traumatic past; and the past can be dangerous, especially now that Jane’s protective birthmarks are gone.

Worse, she’s no longer invisible within her dreams—and learns this the hard way while using her power to incriminate a ruthless killer. Inadvertently revealing her ghost form, she launches him on a relentless hunt to track her down.

Even more disturbing, Jane knows this man. She once tried to use her power to save him from injury, but instead set him on a path of violent crime. Now, he’s targeted the man she loves, and Jane must keep one step ahead of this cold-blooded assassin before he gets rid of Ethan permanently.

Jane has one last chance to fix the mistake that altered this man’s history, but that means taking her most dangerous dream journey yet—one from which she might never awaken.

Ghost Mark is the second installment of the Dark Dreams Series by JP McLean, an author whose writing the Ottawa Review of Books calls “relentless and original.”

in search of a setting

by jp mclean

No matter the genre, all works of fiction have a setting, and every setting requires research, even the fictional ones. But choosing a present-day setting, like New York, or Paris, requires a deeper dive. Why? Because even if you have never visited the location you choose, your readers may have. If the location details aren’t authentic, you’ll lose credibility with your readers.

Getting the details right is important

Setting is more than a location on a map. In order to pull your reader into the setting, and keep them there, you have to evoke the senses, create an immersive experience. When researching a location, consider the sounds (cars honking, frog song), the scents (exhaust, wood smoke), the sights (high rises, fields of corn), the textures (cool glass, weathered wood), and the local cuisine (fast food, fine dining).

Setting your story in a place you’re familiar with is one way to get the details right. Most of the settings I choose are cities I’ve lived in. I know the street layouts, the neighbourhoods, the feel of the places. Indoors or out, downtown or suburb, I know where to find a suitable place for each scene. But what do you do when the setting is unfamiliar?

Any excuse for a road trip

Location research is a writer’s best excuse for a road trip! I’ve driven across Canada and down the west coast of the United States many times to see and feel for myself the places I’m using. I take copious notes and every opportunity to talk to locals. Most places have visitor information centres that are useful resources. The knowledgeable people who work there are happy to talk about the location and its famous or infamous residents. Does your story call for a name drop? Often, brochures and pamphlets are available for useful tips on everything from local festivals and markets to tourist hot spots, hikes, beaches, and restaurants. You’ll find plenty of detail to add layers of richness to your settings.

Servers at local restaurants are also a tremendous resource, and if you catch them during a slow time, they’re usually happy to talk. A server in the Napa Valley, in California’s wine country, gave me a piece of writing gold when she asked if I was in town for the crush. I learned that was local lingo for the annual grape harvest.

One mistake I’ve made on past road trips is not having a list of questions and scene-specific
requirements. It’s easy to get sidetracked when you’re on a road trip, so I like to know what locations the book calls for. Do I need to find a city park? A high rise? A derelict warehouse? Having a list may be easier for writers who plot, but even those who don’t plot, can keep a daily travel diary, and include the five senses they encounter while they’re out and about.

But what to do when you don’t have the flexibility to travel?

Happily, there are many other resources writers can tap. To get an overview of the area, a roadmap or Google Maps are good places to start. Supplement the big picture with Google Earth to hone in on the types of buildings in the area (residential/industrial), the architecture (gothic/modern), the scenery (lush/barren). Use traffic cameras to gage how busy the streets are, what kind of trees, billboards, or buildings line the highways. These are the streets and conditions your characters will encounter.

Search the internet for the scents and sounds of the place (seriously, type in scents and sounds of X city and you’ll be surprised how much you can glean). Find the local restaurants and look at their on-line menus. These are the meals your characters will order.
Check the weather charts and sunrise/sunset times to be sure you’re true to the timeframe you’re using. Research the flora and fauna your characters will encounter. Interview people you know who have been to the location. I’ve also used local real estate listings to get a feel for neighbourhood homes and condos. Most real estate listings these days come with drone footage, 360-degree views of the interior, and sometimes the architectural plans. This information can help round out interior scenes or lend flavour to scenes staged in the general vicinity.

Not everything you find will make its way to the page

You’ll often end up with much more information than you can use in your story. But the research is never wasted, because even if you don’t use the crush, knowing about it helps you understand the setting and the people, and that knowledge will infuse itself 
itself into your writing, pull in the reader and hold them in the story.

JP (Jo-Anne) McLean is a bestselling author of urban fantasy and supernatural thrillers. She is a 2021 finalist for the Chanticleer Paranormal Award for Supernatural Fiction, and the Wishing Shelf Book award for Adult Fiction. Her work has won a Readers’ Favorite Award, a Gold Literary Titan medal, and honourable mentions from the Whistler Independent Book Awards and the Victoria Writers’ Society. Reviewers call her work addictive, smart, and fun.

JP holds a Bachelor of Commerce Degree from the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, is a certified scuba diver, an avid gardener, and a voracious reader. She had a successful career in Human Resources before turning her attention to writing.

Raised in Toronto, Ontario, JP has lived in various parts of North America, from Mexico and Arizona to Alberta and Ontario. JP now lives with her husband on Denman Island, which is nestled between the coast of British Columbia and Vancouver Island. You can reach her through her website at
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Published  September 17, 2015 by Inklings Publishing In Twisted Reveries, suspense author Meg Hafdahl introduces us to thirteen unforgettabl...

Published September 17, 2015 by Inklings Publishing

In Twisted Reveries, suspense author Meg Hafdahl introduces us to thirteen unforgettable women. They include a grieving mother, a librarian living on the edge of fantasy, and a pyromaniac motel manager. In all thirteen spine-tingling tales these women are faced with their deepest fears, as they are forced to become the hero or villain of their own story. The Rochester Post Bulletin describes, "Everything is not as it seems in the short, 'Twilight Zone' like tales Hafdahl writes." Packed with twists and intrigue, Twisted Reveries will satisfy fans of horror, suspense, and captivating female protagonists. As Amanda walks home alone in the eerie town of Willoughby, she is unsettled by a malevolent stalker in close pursuit, who is somehow familiar... Louise is kidnapped off a snowy, rural road when she is distracted by A Flash of Orange. When a twist of fate allows her escape, her true horrifying test begins... A group of strangers, including fearful Kelly, are trapped in the infusion ward of a hospital, and something hungry is targeting their weaknesses. Will Kelly dig deep and find her Guts? When Hannah Goes Home she brings her fiancee to the squalid reality of her childhood. But she is determined to keep one, awful truth from surfacing... Immerse yourself in the dark, pulse-pounding landscapes of Twisted Reveries: Thirteen Tales of the Macabre.

The Haunted House in Horror Literature

by meg hafdahl

With the recent success of Grady Hendrix’s (My Best Friend’s Exorcism, The Final Girl Support Group) newest novel, How To Sell A Haunted House, I naturally started thinking about this well-loved trope of a house bursting with ghosts. It’s also been on my mind as my co-author and I have been crossing the USA, documenting haunted places for our travel book coming in 2024. I don’t need to tell you that haunted houses are abundantly used as settings in the horror genre, and they share many similarities. You know; the drafty rooms, mysterious corridors, spider-webbed attics, and, most vital of all, the ghosts. These are often apparitions of the former owners, often people who were murdered or died with the always popular “unfinished business.” They can be invisible, or maybe show themselves, dressed in the clothes of their era.  The haunted house is certainly not a new idea, like the boogeyman himself, it is borne of our natural, human fears. Home is where we should feel safe. No matter the indignities of life outside, we should all have a safe place in which to retreat. When this is disturbed, it immediately brings horror to the characters, and their readers. 

My favorite haunted house story is Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. I’m not alone, as it has inspired many films and works, as recently as Mike Flanagan’s Netflix series. Written at a time when women were grappling with their place in the home (on the cusp of the sixties) Jackson uses the conventions of a haunted house to point to the destruction of the female in forced domesticity. Home, to Jackson, is inherently female, as well as maternal. When Stephen King created ghosts in The Shining (okay a hotel, but close enough) he used the tropes of the haunted house to further a story about a man haunted by his own past, as well as his ever-present addiction. And we know Edgar Allan Poe meditated on the nature of guilt and grief through some of the first American haunted dwellings. Perhaps what makes a haunted house so prolific in horror literature, is that it is an enticing template on which authors can inject their own fears. Isn’t that what we do when we enter a Halloween haunted house? As we traverse the slim corridors and actors jump out at us, we are individually dreading all the things that could happen. For some its our fear of something crawling on our neck, for others it’s a bloodthirsty ghost of that person we killed! Oops! 

As a horror fiction writer I am not immune to this trope. Ghosts creeping around houses are just plain scary, it’s something as humans we’ve collectively agreed gives us goosebumps. It also delves into what little we know about an afterlife. In my novel Daughters of Darkness, I introduced a ghost who speaks to a child through an air vent. This juxtaposition of the scary and the mundane is another aspect, I think, that makes haunted houses so appealing. 

    Books are not the only reason we share a collective understanding of the haunted house. They are alive and well in films from every decade, like the Vincent Price starring The House on Haunted Hill in 1959 to the vividly gothic Crimson Peak in 2015. Let us not forget the chairs moving in formation in Poltergeist, and that clown toy hiding in the shadows that still gives me nightmares…

    However you like your haunted house there’s one for you.

    Here’s some recommendations of some of my favorites if want to explore some haunted houses on your own (what could go wrong?) 

Books: The Good House by Tananarive Due, Hell House by Richard Matheson, The Hacienda by Isabel Canas, Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

Movies: The Grudge, The Changeling, 1408, The Others, The Innocents

Horror and suspense author Meg Hafdahl is the creator of numerous stories and books. Her fiction has appeared in anthologies such as Eve’s Requiem: Tales of Women, Mystery and Horror and Eclectically Criminal. Her work has been produced for audio by The Wicked Library and The Lift, and she is the author of two popular short story collections including Twisted Reveries: Thirteen Tales of the Macabre. Meg is also the author of the two novels; Daughters of Darkness and Her Dark Inheritance called “an intricate tale of betrayal, murder, and small town intrigue” by Horror Addicts and “every bit as page turning as any King novel” by RW Magazine. Meg, also the co-host of the podcast Horror Rewind and co-author of The Science of Monsters, The Science of Women in Horror, The Science of Stephen King and upcoming The Science of Serial Killers, lives in the snowy bluffs of Minnesota.

Published September 6, 2022 by Skyhorse A scientific discovery of witches in fiction—Chilled Adventures of Sabrina, Sleeping Beauty, Wicked ...

Published September 6, 2022 by Skyhorse

A scientific discovery of witches in fiction—Chilled Adventures of Sabrina, Sleeping Beauty, Wicked and so many more!

Kelly Florence and Meg Hafdahl, authors of The Science of Women in Horror and co-hosts of the Horror Rewind podcast called “the best horror film podcast out there” by Film Daddy, present a guide to the history of witchcraft through the stories and characters we all know and love. Reveal the spellbinding science behind the legends and lore surrounding fiction’s most iconic witches, answering such questions as:
What is the science behind divination and spellcraft?
When did witchcraft begin to show up in literature and media?
Has science made it possible to uncover the truth behind the powers of necromancy and employing familiars?
How has witchcraft been thought of throughout the world?

Through interviews, film and literary analysis, and bone-chilling discoveries, join Kelly and Meg as they learn about the complicated and rich science of witchcraft throughout the centuries and discover why now is the season of the witch!

The Horror and Humanity of The Last of Us

By Kelly Florence

HBO’s latest hit, The Last of Us (2023-), based on the video game by the same name, has taken the world by storm. On Sunday, January 29th the third episode of the series premiered and became the social media buzz and water cooler talk of the week. How could a post-apocalyptic show about mushroom zombies cause so many people to openly weep? Acclaimed horror writer and director Mike Flanagan even declared it to be “one of the best episodes of television I’ve ever seen.” This earnest and beautiful hour of television explores not only how life changes after an outbreak that infects the world but also how love, and the things we fight for, matter throughout our time on this Earth.

Light spoilers ahead if you haven’t watched the series! The videogame “The Last of Us” was released in 2013 and follows the characters Joel and Ellie as they navigate their way through the United States which has been overrun by “the Infected.” HBO’s version deviates from the game by exploring stories and perspectives that broaden the world and emotional understanding of the characters. “One More Good Day,” the third episode of the series, focuses on two men Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett), and their relationship over a period of years. Creator Craig Mazin said, “I think the Bill and Frank relationship ultimately functioned as this interesting, thematic core where you can see every relationship between two people in the show…It keeps circling what it means to be somebody that loves outward and somebody who loves inward, what it means to protect and what it means to risk. It just felt like it was a good chance to do that stuff and to do it in a place where we wouldn’t be breaking anything from the game. It just felt safe.” 2 

In the study of communications, we often discuss the different types of love that exist and how we show that love to others. Gary Chapman coined and wrote about “The Five Love Languages” in his 1992 book by the same name after working as a marriage counselor for over twenty years. Relationship experts have been using this system of understanding love to help couples better communicate and understand one another. The five love languages are words of affirmation, acts of service, gifts, quality time, and physical touch. According to Chapman, we each like to show our love for others in a specific way and we prefer to receive our love from others in one of these love languages. It’s important to note that they may be different. For example, you may like to receive gifts, but you would rather show your love through words of affirmation. Your partner may prefer receiving love by spending quality time with you while you would like to have physical touch to feel loved and appreciated. Understanding these facets about ourselves and others helps us to strengthen our relationships and become better communicators. 

Bill and Frank’s love languages become apparent throughout the episode in a variety of touching moments I won’t spoil for you here! The actors’ sincere portrayals, the writer’s heartbreaking dialogue, the beautiful direction, and the haunting score all culminate to become one of my favorite episodes of television ever and I, too, was a sobbing wreck by the conclusion! This proves that the genre of horror can have an impact on us as readers and viewers far more than some people imagine. Horror can induce empathy, show complicated and rich relationships, and have us experience worlds and circumstances we didn’t think possible. After hearing others talk about their reactions to this episode during the week, it seems many of us came to the same conclusion: spend time with the ones you love. Show them that you care. Tell them that you love them. We don’t know how much time we’ll have with the ones that matter most to us so it’s important to act now before it’s too late. And don’t forget to watch more in the horror genre, too!

1 Flanagan, Mike. (January 29, 2023) “#TheLastofUsHBO.” 

2 Dyer, James. (January 30, 2023) “The Last of Us: Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann on How Episode 3 Explores ‘What it Means to Protect, and What it Means to Risk.’” Empire.

Kelly Florence teaches communication at Lake Superior College in Duluth, MN and is the creator of the Be a Better Communicator podcast. She received her BA in theatre from the University of Minnesota-Duluth and her MA in communicating arts from the University of Wisconsin-Superior. She has written, directed, produced, choreographed, and stage managed for dozens of productions in Minnesota including Carrie: The Musical through Rubber Chicken Theatre and Treasure Island for Wise Fool Theater. She is passionate about female representation in all media and particularly the horror genre.
She is the co-author of The Science of Monsters, The Science of Women in Horror, The Science of Stephen King, The Science of Serial Killers, and The Science of Witchcraft with Meg Hafdahl. They co-host the Horror Rewind podcast and write and produce horror projects together. Kelly is repped by Stacey Kondla (Literary Agent) at The Rights Factory and Karmen Wells (TV/Film Agent) at The Rights Factory.

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