Saturday, November 23, 2013

What Every Aspiring Writer Needs to Know by Hunter Shea

Today, horror author Hunter Shea shares some great tips that every aspiring writer needs to know about what it takes to be a professional writer.

You know, I should write a book about this.” --- phrase said every minute of every day.

There are a few things that separate the person who says they want to write a book from those who actually publish a book. They may sound simple but each actually requires passion, dedication and discipline – and maybe a little dash of insanity. How many other endeavors require you to lock yourself away for hundreds, maybe thousands of hours, with no guarantee of success after all that time missed with friends and family?

A friend of mine, who is also a writer, wrapped the mind of the writer up in one word : compulsion. Writers are compelled to tell stories. That compulsion is the driving force that keeps our butts in the chair, tapping away at our keyboard or scratching on legal pads.

So, what do you have to do to channel that compulsion and push through to publication? Be warned, this isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Read. If you don’t read, you can’t write. Do not pass Go. I don’t know a single successful writer that isn’t a voracious reader. Saying you want to be a writer without reading is like saying you want to be a mechanic but you never drive or tinker around with cars. If you’re a genre reader, gather up everything you can in your genre, but don’t forget to read other genres as well. You’ll pick up something from every book you read. Reading teaches you the craft, the cadence of writing. I’ve been reading 50-100 books a year since I was a teen. Reading is where it all starts.

Write.  This one seems self-explanatory, but it’s not always easy to do. Life is crazy and busy and demanding. It’s hard to establish a writing routine. (quick tip – turn off the TV. You’ll be amazed by how much time you have to write if you steer clear of the boob tube) You have to make a conscious effort to follow the AIS rule. That means Ass In Seat. While you’re there, get to writing. Fill those blank pages. Keep going until you type The End. Start something new. Then go back and revise. Odds are, your early efforts will be clunky, but don’t despair. When it comes to writing, practice does make perfect. When I look at the stories and books I wrote at the start of this 18-year journey, I cringe so hard, I’m afraid my face will freeze. You will get better if you stick to it and always, always finish what you start. When you finish, polish it like a diamond.

Study. Writing is more than an art. Writing to be published is a business. You have to learn the publishing business. What are the acceptable formats? What companies publish the kind of books you want to write? Who are the editors? The agents? What are the submission rules? How do you build a brand? Market your work? There are more books and websites and blogs out there to help the beginner writer than I can name. You can start with The Writer’s Marketplace – an invaluable tool for every writer. Subscribe to the Writer’s Digest. Look at the dedications in books, see which agents are representing the authors you hope to one day stand beside. Writing your book is just half the battle.

Submit. No one will know about the new light under the bushel if you don’t send your work out. I know, it’s scary. It’s kind of like walking naked down a busy street. Here you are, offering up your soul’s hard work to be evaluated by perfect strangers. Grit your teeth and send your work out. You studied your market, so you know exactly who to send it to in a professional manner.

Patience. The pace of publishing can be, well, glacial at best. Editors and agents aren’t always quick to get back to you. My first horror novel, Forest of Shadows, spent almost 4 years with an editor before it was accepted. Now, that’s an extreme example, but not unheard of. Patience pays off in the end. At least that’s what I tell my kids. I’ve published half a dozen books with that many more to come and this is still the most difficult part of the entire process for me.

Grow a thick skin. Rejection will be your constant companion. All published writers have drawers full of rejection letters. Most of them are form letters, some encouraging and helpful, and others downright mean. You can’t let it get you down. In fact, those rejection letters can be helpful. They may be telling you what you need to work on to improve. I once had a story that was soundly rejected by everyone because of the precarious situation I put a character in. They were very explicit about why it would never sell. What did I do? I changed the character, kept the situation, and sold that story half a dozen times over ten years.

Keep on truckin’. If you truly have the writer’s compulsion, keep working, keep learning, keep growing. It took me almost 15 years to get to where I wanted to be as a writer. Now that I’m here, I’m working even harder to improve and most of all, get the voices in my head onto the page. See, I told you there was some insanity in here.

Hunter Shea is the author of the novels Sinister Entity, Swamp Monster Massacre, Evil Eternal and Forest of Shadows. His first short story collection, Asylum Scrawls, recently terrorized the locals during its Halloween season release. He has three novels scheduled for publication in 2014.

When he’s not lamenting the state of the Mets, he’s working on his all horror podcast, Monster Men, a light hearted take on dark topics. He lives in New York with his family and rescue cat that won’t stop peeing in his tub.

You can follow Hunter's latest travails at You can find the Monster Men at

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Haunted Attractions from Around the World

Over the years, I’ve celebrated Halloween in a myriad of ways, from trick-'r-treating as a child and sorting through all the candy (mini Reeses buttercups, Snickers bars, and candy corns) to attending local haunted houses and faraway castles as an adult. Having traveled all over Europe and the U.S., I consider myself a world traveler. And being a writer of the macabre, I love locations where there are scary historical attractions to explore. Here is an article originally published on Priority One Jets blog.

7 Terrifying Haunted Attractions from Around the World

The arrival of All Hallows Eve is lurking around the corner and haunted attractions housing zombies, vampires, and ghosts are popping up all over the world. While the staged acts use special effects and fog machines to conjure up a few screams, for some, the creepy history alone is enough to send chills down their spines. Whether you are looking to travel for some eerie entertainment or to hit up a historical haunt, this list has enough scary and scripted options to leave you shaking in your boots.

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary : This Philadelphia prison was the first to practice solitary confinement. The prisoners were kept isolated and did all activities alone, until overcrowding forced the institution to abandon inmate separation. Along with this treatment, the guards and facility counselors developed different physical and psychological torture techniques that ultimately caused mental illness in many of the inmates. Since closing in 1970, visitors have reported sightings of dark figures and sounds of lonely wails echoing through the halls. The prison is open for tours year-round, along with a haunted house attraction from September to November.

13th Gate : Feel like crawling through a crematory oven? How about wandering through dark, underground tunnels? This popular Baton Rouge Halloween hot spot has been consistently rated as one of the best-haunted attractions from several outlets over the past 7 years. From September to November, 100 professional actors and 12 special effects make-up artists come together to create grisly characters such as fiendish zombies and voodoo loving witches.

Edinburgh Castle : With a history dating back to the 12th century and hundreds of reported ghost interactions, it’s no wonder that Edinburgh Castle is one of Scotland’s most visited tourist attractions. The castle has stood through numerous executions and attacks, ultimately becoming one of largest sites of paranormal activity. Drops in temperature, shadowy figures, and the feeling of tugging on clothes and body parts are only a few of the many reported experiences of visitors.

SCREAM! At Madam Tussauds London : Forget standing around like a statue! Visitors travel through the Chamber of Horrors with hair-raising surprises, such as crazed inmates, hidden in every corner. With live and on-the-loose actors running around, expect a sore neck from constantly checking over your shoulder for things that go bump in the night. From New York to Tokyo, haunted house enthusiasts from all over can stop in for a quick scare while visiting this infamous wax museum.

The Winchester Mystery House : Once owned by Sarah Winchester, the widow of gun tycoon William Wirt Winchester, this property has become a haunted landmark in Northern California. A medium told Winchester in order to prevent the spirits of those killed by Winchester guns from harming her, she needed to continuously build a house for them. The house was under construction every hour of every day for 38 years, with the hopes that no spirit would settle there. With a total of 160 rooms, doors that open to brick walls and stairs that lead nowhere, this mansion has become a heavy influence in pop culture.

The Darkness : Labeled as one of the premiere haunted houses in Missouri, this devilish dwelling has drawn attention from media giants such as the Travel Channel, The History Channel and USA Today. From flying zombies to a live reptile section featuring piranhas, pythons, and scorpions, the attractions are completely renovated every year with an annual budget of almost $1 million. With a monster museum, a 3D house tour and a two-story walk through exhibit, this is the trip of a lifetime for the ultimate horror fan!

The Catacombs : Underneath the brightly lit streets of Paris, millions of human bones act as a type of structural support for parts of the city. This underground cemetery originally acted as a temporary solution to improper burials and strengthening the structure of the streets. In the 1860s, city workers dug up many of the surrounding graveyards for bones to be used as building materials. After opening a small portion of the underground catacombs to the public in the late 18th century, there has been no shortage of reported ghost sightings throughout the years.

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Friday, September 27, 2013

Another Book Finished

It's time to celebrate. Today, I finished polishing the manuscript for my fifth book THE VAGRANTS. I just sent it to my editor. Right now it's scheduled to release May 2014.
Here's the premise: 
Beneath the city of Boston, evil is gathering.

Journalist Daniel Finley is determined to save the impoverished of the world. But the abandoned part of humanity has a dark side. While living under a bridge with the homeless for six months, Daniel witnesses something terrifying that nearly costs him his sanity.

Two years later, he’s published a book that exposes an underground cult and its charismatic leader. Now, as Daniel fears the vagrants are after him, a new problem threatens to destroy the lives of everyone he loves—his father is being terrorized by vicious mobsters of the Irish-American Mafia. As he desperately tries to help his father, Daniel gets caught up in the middle of a war between the mafia and a deadly cult of homeless people who are preparing to shed blood on the streets of Boston.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Photos from HorrorHound Indy

Last weekend I traveled from Texas to Indianapolis, Indiana to do a book signing at my publisher's booth at the HorrorHound convention. Here are some pics.

I did a joint signing with other Samhain Horror authors. Left to right (me, Russell James, John Everson, Kristopher Rufty, Jonathan Janz) 

Selling our books for 3 straight days. Left to right: Russell James, Mick Ridgewell, Me, Kristopher Rufty

 A horror fan named Erik was the first person to buy my pre-release novel THE DEVIL'S WOODS. Below, a high school student bought SHADOWS IN THE MIST for a school book report.

Below are pics from a monster mask festival.

Scary, aren't they?

This masked fan practically stepped out of my cover. All he needed was a Nazi uniform.

Mick Ridgewell, David Searls and John Everson (giving his best zombie face).

I spent most of the weekend hanging out with my good friend, Kristopher Rufty. Here he's showing off his latest book OAK HOLLOW.

All in all, it was a fun 3-day weekend. Indianapolis was a beautiful city and I definitely plan to return one day.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

What's on My Horror Bookshelves

I was asked by a horror magazine Ravenous Monster to write an article about the books on my bookshelves and to provide some photos. Throughout my life, since I first discovered reading as a young boy, I've been a voracious reader. I'm sure you've seen the image of a boy under the covers reading by a flashlight; that was me. I remember feeling both fear and exhilaration at the same time--too enthralled to close the book, yet too terrified to pull the covers off to see what might be lurking in the dark with me. Reading activated my vivid and wild imagination and made monsters and killers and imaginary worlds feel so real, I felt like they were happening to me.

I started out with comic books, but it wasn't long before I discovered the secret joys of reading novels--especially scary ones. I read lots of fantasy, horror, mysteries, and adventure novels. Today I still read a lot of those genres, although my reading has expanded into literary fiction, historical fiction, and lots of non-fiction that inspire me to improve myself or my life in some way. For the sake of this article, I'll share what's on my horror shelves.

In my home office, I have a tall bookshelf that's stuffed with books. My top shelf is comprised of many well-worn paperbacks by some of my favorite authors--Brian Keene, Clive Barker, Dean Koontz, James Rollins, Jonathan Maberry, and Richard Laymon. As a writer always seeking to improve my craft, I like to pick an author and read several of his or her books at once. In college I studied Dean Koontz, Robert McCammon, John Saul, and Stephen King. A couple years ago, I was reading every Richard Laymon novel I could find. Right now I've been reading lots of Clive Barker. I had discovered his Books of Blood series as a teen and they are still some of my favorite stories. I'm also currently reading Clive Barker: The Dark Fantastique, his compelling biography written by Douglas E. Winter. I recommend this book to any horror fan, because Clive Barker not only writes some of the best-written horror fiction I've ever read, his prolific career of writing, painting, performing in plays, and making movies (like Hellraiser) is a true inspiration to any artist or writer. 

My middle shelf is a collection of random paperbacks that I've enjoyed. A few books worth reading: Ronald Malfi's Snow, Adam Nevill's The Ritual, David Wellington's Monster Island, Charlee Jacobs' Haunter and The Descent and it's sequel Deeper by Jeff Long. Also on display is my first mass paperback copy of my WII thriller Shadows in the Mist. Next to it is a sculpture of the monster in the book. An artist friend of mine who had access to a 3D printer made the sculpture of the Nazi with the mask and glowing red eyes. He first designed a 3D model on a computer, then this machine that usually was used for making sculptures of skulls made the Nazi. It started out solid white and then my friend painted it for me. There's only one of it in existence and it's very special to me.

My third shelf is where I keep reference books and non-fiction books on the craft of writing. Three books I've referred to for years are my dictionary, thesaurus, and my Chicago Manual of Style for the rules of editing (the big orange one far right). I believe that even when you've established yourself as an author, it's always important to keep improving your writing. In addition to studying the styles of other authors, I read lots of non-fiction books on the craft of writing. When I first started out, I read books that focused an entire book on one technique: plot, dialogue, creating characters, theme, and the art of storytelling. The first book that I read that showed me how to structure a novel was How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey. Also, Stephen King's On Writing is an inspirational gem. For any fiction writer I highly recommend three books by Donald Maas: Fire in Fiction, Writing the Breakout Novel, and Writing 21st Century Fiction. For horror writers, I recommend: On Writing Horror, The Writer's Workshop of Horror, and especially How to Write Horror Fiction by William Nolan. The bobble-head of Dexter was a Christmas gift. I love me some Dexter.

On another shelf, I have a copy of Stephen King's Under the Dome and Nightmares & Dreamscapes (his photo facing me is a constant reminder that being a prolific writer and putting all your hours in typing up stories eventually pays off).

I also have a collection of signed copies of books by fellow Samhain Horror authors I've had the privilege of sitting next to at book signings. Some established and upcoming authors include: John Everson, Hunter Shea, Jonathan Janz, Kristopher Rufty, Ronald Malfi, Adam Cesare, Frazer Lee, Damien Walters Grintales, Russell James, David Bernstein, Mick Ridgewell, and W.D. Gagliani.

These are just a few of my books that have highly impacted my career as a horror fiction writer.


Brian Moreland writes novels and short stories of horror and supernatural suspense. His books include Dead of Winter, Shadows in the Mist, The Girl from the Blood Coven, The Witching House, and The Devil’s Woods. The Vagrants comes out May 2014. Brian lives in Dallas, Texas where he is joyfully writing his next horror novel. You can join his mailing list at

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Guest Post about My Characters in The Witching House

Here's an article about my upcoming book THE WITCHING HOUSE. Today, I'm a guest author on the blog Oh, for the Hook of a Book.

In the article, I share details about my main characters, Sarah Donovan and her boyfriend Dean Stratton, who go exploring in an old abandoned house in the woods that's where something lives in the basement.

The Witching House releases Tuesday, August 6th. Download it to your Kindle, Nook or Ipad or order it at Samhain Horror.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Another Book Checked Off the List

As a working author, I have a lot of story ideas in my head and characters prodding me to tell their story. Heroes and heroines, villains and supporting characters--they all want to be cast in a book. I also have, filed away in the most darkest regions of my imagination, monsters that would love to star in their own novel or short story. It can get pretty noisy inside my head as I decide which novel, novella or short story to write next. I'd love to write them all at once, but we haven't mastered cloning just yet.

One story that has always intrigued me is based on a short story that I wrote many years ago called THE VAGRANTS, about a mysterious group of homeless nomads living inside an abandoned building. The original was a simple story about two mafia men who dared to try to force the homeless out of their building and discovered an unexpected horror awaiting them. That story sat in one of my computer folders for close to two decades, because I had moved on from writing short stories to novels. But the story stuck with me and I happened across it a couple months ago--while going through a folder of unpublished short stories--and decided THE VAGRANTS is a story I eventually want to share with the world.

But it needed a lot of work and my writing style has changed over the years. So this past June and first week of July, I quieted all the other voices in my head and focused on reworking this beloved story. The end result is that yesterday I completed a novella-length story that I'm super proud of. It's Gothic horror in the realm of H.P. Lovecraft and Clive Barker, two of my favorite authors.

The story is still unpolished and will now go through the editing phase, so I don't have a release date yet. I'm aiming for early next year, a few months after I release my novel THE DEVIL'S WOODS in December. I've also got some short stories I'm touching up and plan to publish, like THE DEALER OF NEEDS and CHASING THE DRAGON. So keep your eyes out for my firs short story collection.

Until then, here's a sneak peek at the synopsis for THE VAGRANTS:

Beneath the city of Boston, 
evil is gathering.

For six months Daniel Finley secretly lived under a bridge with homeless people to study their way of life. He slowly began to grow paranoid as he witnessed a strange phenomenon occurring. A fanatical nomad who calls himself a prophet of the Apocalypse is brainwashing the homeless into believing the  human race is about to be wiped out. Only the chosen will be saved.

One year later, Daniel’s life appears to be going along perfectly. He’s lives in a wonderful home, has a new girlfriend, and a book deal that will make his money problems go away. But Daniel’s troubled past quickly catches up to him, and before he knows it, he’s caught up in a war between those who control the streets of Boston and those who roam the dark tunnels beneath.