The Horror, the Horror IV: Writing Horror Fiction with Substance


Remember that LitReactor class I mentioned a while back that I said I’d be teaching with Helen Marshall, Jordan Hamessley, and Simon Strantzas? Well, here’s the information I promised! It’s a four-week course on writing horror fiction, with each instructor taking one of the weeks. It breaks down like this:

Week One: Helen Marshall
Landing The Gut Punch: Structure, Pace, and Poe’s “Unity of Effect”

Week Two: Jordan Hamessley
Creating Page-turning Fiction from an Editor’s Perspective; When to Build Suspense and When to go for the Big Scare

Week Three: Nicholas Kaufmann
Shambling Toward the Finish Line: Letting Your Characters Help You Plot Your Story or Novel

Week Four: Simon Strantzas
Reading Between the Lines: The Subtle Art of Subtlety

You won’t want to miss out on this amazing opportunity to study the craft with four of “today’s leading horror experts.” The class will top out at just 15 students, so enroll soon. The funds go to support the Shirley Jackson Awards. Check out the LitReactor site for more info.

Happy St. George’s Day!

Happy St. George’s Day, everyone! And happy World Book Day, too! Two very different days of note to share a calendar date, to be sure, but if you’re looking for a way to celebrate them both I’ve got just the thing!

Chasing the Dragon by Nick Kaufmann

It’s my Thriller Award-nominated and Shirley Jackson Award-nominated novella Chasing the Dragon! The story is about the last living descendent of St. George, her heroin addiction, and the dragon George was supposed to have killed but didn’t. In fact, the painting at the top of this blog post, “Saint George and the Dragon” by Gustave Moreau, plays an important role in the story! SFRevu called Chasing the Dragon “an excellent novella…a fascinating new take on an old legend,” so why not check it out for yourself on this special day?

The paperback is currently on sale directly from ChiZine Publications for slightly less than the e-book, which never happens, so you might want to take advantage of that! Otherwise, go here for more sales links and information about Chasing the Dragon. And happy St. George’s Day/World Book Day to you!

The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Six

The Best Horror of the Year, Volume SixThe Best Horror of the Year, Volume Six by Ellen Datlow

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Calling anything the best of the year is a tricky proposition. Taste is subjective; one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. However, I’ve never read an Ellen Datlow anthology that I didn’t think was top-notch, so I’ve come to trust her taste implicitly. While there were a small handful of stories in this volume that didn’t resonate with me the way they clearly must have for Datlow, overall this is a very strong sampling of short-form horror fiction from 2013. Among the standouts for me were “The Good Husband” by Nathan Ballingrud, which might be my favorite story of the bunch, “The Soul in the Bell Jar” by KJ Kabza, “That Tiny Flutter of the Heart I Used to Call Love” by Robert Shearman, “The Monster Makers” by Steve Rasnic Tem, “The Only Ending We Have” by Kim Newman, “Fine In the Fire” by Lee Thomas, which is another favorite, and “Jaws of Saturn” by Laird Barron. This is my first time reading a volume of THE BEST HORROR OF THE YEAR but it certainly won’t be the last. Recommended for fans of horror, and also for writers interested in learning how great short-form horror fiction works.

View all my reviews

Workshopping With Kelly Link

I’ve been a part of the same writers workshop — named Who Wants Cake after a bit from Amy Sedaris’s Strangers With Candy — for twelve years now, but yesterday we did something we’ve never done before. We had a special guest join us for a crit session: Kelly Link. Everyone in the workshop is a huge fan of her work. Two of our members have actually studied with her before at Clarion. We all look up to her so much that it was a real pleasure to have her with us.

We’re a very good workshop, we’ve honed our critiquing skills over the years, but Kelly’s crits were on a whole other level — so smart and astute and just astonishing. She didn’t critique anything I wrote, but even just hearing her thoughts on other people’s work was transformative and inspiring. It gave me lots of great things to think about for the novel I’m currently working on. I wish Kelly could be part of our workshop more frequently. The door is open for her return any time, and I hope we’ll see her again soon.

After a quick nosh in which Kelly spoke reverently of her love of The Vampire Diaries, we all headed downtown to the Pen Parentis reading series — founded and executive directed by M.M. De Voe,  a member of our workshop — to hear Kelly read with Lev Grossman and Marly Youmans.


Here is M.M. De Voe (Milda to her friends) standing up and introducing the evening. On the couch, left to right, are Lev Grossman, Marly Youmans, and Kelly Link. Seated in the chair at the far left is curator and co-host of Pen Parentis, Christina Chiu.


More introductions. The reading was held at the Andaz on Wall Street, and they gave Pen Parentis a really beautiful room on the mezzanine.


Here is Lev Grossman reading from The Magician’s Land while Christina Chiu looks on.


Here is Marly Youmans talking with Alexa during intermission. The novel Youmans read from is called Glimmerglass and takes place in a fake version of Cooperstown, NY, where the Glimmerglass Opera is located. Alexa used to work at the Glimmerglass opera, and we’re friends with the costume director there. We bought a copy of the book for our friend and had Ms. Youmans sign it to her.


Here is Kelly Link answering a question during the Q&A session after her reading. She read a portion of her story “Two Houses” from the collection Get In Trouble, but I was too engrossed during the reading to take a picture, so this will have to do.

It was a really special day, energizing and inspiring and filled with a warm sense of camaraderie. I’ll cherish it for a long time.


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