Monday, November 13, 2017

Lies, Love & Redemption - A Spicy Western Romance



Hi everyone,

To celebrate Medallion Month, I’m sharing a look at the making of my latest Medallion Press release, Lies, Love & Redemption. This full-length novel is set on the Nebraska prairie in 1877 and blends a steamy romance with mystery and danger.

One day, I was thinking about nothing in particular when this popped into my mind:

A man limping along the prairie. He’s been shot and left for dead. He’s bleeding and hurt bad. And thirsty. So thirsty. It’s hot and he wants to rest, but he knows he has to push on. If he collapses again, he’s not going to get up and he’ll die here. But maybe he’s already dead and this is hell. Or maybe not...

That was my introduction to Sam, the hero. That was also how I introduced readers to Sam— lost and hurt and wandering along the prairie.

Here’s the book summary that came from that initial idea:

Lies, Love & Redemption

Shot and left for dead, Sam Hixton stumbles into a general store on the Nebraska prairie and collapses into the arms of Cassie Wilcox.

Cassie’s world is turned upside down when the handsome stranger drops into her life. Sam is another complication she doesn’t need: her business is dying and her trouble with the townspeople is escalating. Yet she’s determined to keep the store open — no matter what the cost.

As Sam recovers from his injuries, he hides the truth about his identity and convinces Cassie to let him work in the store. He’s attracted to her and admires her independent nature but quickly realizes Cassie’s in way over her head. They fight their growing attraction, and Cassie questions whether she can trust her fragile heart to a mysterious stranger. Will he accept her once he knows about her troubled past?

Cassie resists Sam’s advances and represses her feelings until one fateful night when they give in to their fiery passion. Together, they work out a plan to save the store but find their efforts are thwarted—and their lives endangered—by the locals.

Sam’s secret returns to haunt him and pulls him away just when Cassie needs him the most. Will he regain her trust when she learns the truth? Cassie has everything invested in the store—can she save it and find true love with Sam before it’s too late?

***

Believe it or not, that first scene came to me several years ago. When I got the idea for the book, I did all the initial research and wrote a very rough draft. Then the manuscript just sat around. I’m not exactly sure why so many other book projects came ahead of it, but they did. The story was always there, but I guess I wasn’t ready to revise and edit it.

When I started working on the book again I found that although the basic premise still resonated with me, I wanted (and needed) to make a lot of changes. I always had the opening scene of Sam walking across the prairie in my mind. I knew where he was going (to Cassie’s store), and I had the general idea of how the story would play out and who the characters were, but I didn’t have the specifics of each scene.

As I got further into revising the book, the details became more solidified. I added new scenes, deleted others, and generally gave it a complete makeover. Now it’s a much stronger (and better) book than it was originally.

But before I started writing, I did a lot of research. First, I had to decide when and where the book would take place. I knew it would be on the prairie somewhere (Kansas? Nebraska? Iowa?) and set after the Civil War. Once I picked a time period and a place I researched everything I could about it: what was going on in the country at that time, how people traveled, what their occupations were, what they ate, how a general store was set up…

I enjoy reading about history and exploring what life was like in different time periods, so doing the research part of a historical romance is interesting—but time consuming. I was always scribbling notes about details I could use in the book. I never used them all, but adding realistic details helps draw readers into the world of the characters, even though it might be very different from how we live now.

Although I have written a lot of historical romances, the time periods are always different. I’ve used Medieval (A Most Unusual Princess), Scottish (The Viking’s Witch) and Colonial (Dangerous Indenture) settings. When I’m writing a historical romance, I never know when (or where) the characters will take me - but I enjoy the journey back in time - and I hope readers do, too!

Order Lies, Love & Redemption here:



Other platforms:


I hope you enjoyed this inside look. I welcome comments and questions from readers. Be sure to follow my blog for the latest updates and visit me on social media!

Happy Reading,

Kelli

Monday, November 6, 2017

Dangerous Indenture... A Historical Mystery



Hi everyone,

To celebrate Medallion Month, I’m sharing a look at the making of my second Medallion Press release, Dangerous Indenture.

As most readers know, I write romances in nearly every genre: contemporary, historical, fantasy, gay, and paranormal. When I write historical romances I never know where (or when) my story will take me. The Viking’s Witch takes place in Scotland in 803, Lies, Love & Redemption is a western set in 1877 Nebraska, and Dangerous Indenture is a spicy historical/mystery taking place in Pennsylvania Colony in the early 1700s.

Here’s the summary:

Dangerous Indenture

Eager to escape her past in Ireland, Shauna Farrow signs on to become an indentured servant to Joshua Stewart, a wealthy man in Pennsylvania Colony. But a life of servitude quickly turns to drudgery, and her hopes for starting over and creating a better life for herself are waning—until she meets her master’s roguish son, Ashton.

Shauna fights her growing attraction to Ashton, torn between propriety and acting on her emotions. But amidst their flirting, something dark stirs. Shauna soon discovers why no other servants will work for the strange Stewart family.

Stewart House has an unsavory reputation: a previous servant died there under mysterious circumstances. When another servant goes missing in the middle of the night, Shauna is convinced that a member of the family is responsible.

When Shauna’s investigation leads her too close to the truth, it’s up to Ashton to save her before time runs out.

***
So how did the novel come about? Dangerous Indenture is one of those books that just jumped into my head. (Yes, every so often that happens to writers.) One day, I overheard the name Shawna Farrell, but I thought I’d heard Shauna Farrow. The name stuck with me and I wrote it down.

A few minutes later, I knew all about her: she was an Irish indentured servant who came to Pennsylvania Colony and worked at a house where a previous servant was murdered. Once I knew that, I started outlining the book.

Before I wrote a word, I did a lot of research. I was starting from a good place with the book—I knew where I wanted to set the story and in approximately what timeframe it should take place.

From there, I spent time in the library going through history books, reading up on Colonial times (What life was like, what people wore, ate, etc.) and indentured servants (Where did they come from? Why did they leave their home country?).

As I wrote, I incorporated my research as background information. This gives the book a rich historical feel without going overboard with details that slow down a scene or are of no interest to readers.

When I’m writing historical romances, I include details and descriptions that are integral to the story. I don’t bog down the plot with a step-by-step procedure for churning butter or how to saddle a horse, and I don’t go into an endless description of how to unfasten a corset (unless it’s befuddling a hero who is eager to remove it!)

Just because historical romances are set in time periods before cars, the Internet, and cell phones, that doesn’t (or shouldn’t) make them boring. My historicals include plenty of action, adventure, intrigue, danger, comedy, and sensual love scenes.

When I wrote Dangerous Indenture, I especially enjoyed creating the characters and setting the stage for the drama that’s about to unfold. Right from the start, we’re told that Stewart House is haunted, and then we (and Shauna) meet the master of the house, Joshua Stewart, and his strange family.

Our hero, Ashton Bailey, is flawed and has a lot of problems to overcome. For starters, he’s known as the black sheep of the family and has been sent home in disgrace. He has a reputation as a drunkard and a womanizer, and tends to get himself into troubling situations. By giving Ashton all this “baggage” I made him vulnerable and provided him with lofty goals to reach.

Shauna has come to the Colonies to start over and make a new life for herself. The last thing she wants is to fall in love with anyone—and then she meets Ashton. Shauna is headstrong and independent, and not your typical heroine. She’s brash and opinionated and falls in love with Ashton despite all of his socially unacceptable flaws. Ashton gives her the strength and encouragement she needs to keep going when things look bleak, and he stands up for her at a critical plot point in the story.

When I developed the secondary characters, I made sure to give them all interesting backstories and unusual quirks. Joshua comes off as a mean bear of a man, Minerva just might be crazy (and a murderer), Colin is… a villain in many senses of the word, and Lila thought she had everything going for her—for a while. Not everyone in Stewart House is as they seem, however, and this adds another level of mystery and intrigue to the book.

I love the characters and the fact that Dangerous Indenture is a romance blended with mystery. I had never written a romance set in Colonial times before, and combining all these elements into this Gothic-type story was a lot of fun.

I hope you’ll check it out!

Order your copy of Dangerous Indenture here:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Dangerous-Indenture-Kelli-Wilkins-ebook/dp/B00JMHZNIG/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1398257669&sr=1-1&keywords=dangerous+indenture

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dangerous-indenture-kelli-wilkins/1118590458?ean=9781605427157

Other platforms: http://medallionpress.com/books/dangerous-indenture/

Happy Reading,
Kelli


Thursday, November 2, 2017

November is Historical Romance Month!





Hi there!

This month, I’m highlighting my historical romances published with Medallion Press: Lies, Love & Redemption, The Viking’s Witch, and Dangerous Indenture. I’ll be posting book summaries, reviews, excerpts, and more on my blog with links on my main Facebook author page and historical romance page.

If you haven’t read any of them yet, now is your chance to fall in love with these great characters and unique settings. Each title is available on several ebook platforms and is only $2.99.

And… If you've read any of my books and enjoyed them (hope you have!) please consider taking a few minutes to add a review on Amazon (or your bookseller of choice).

I love hearing that you enjoyed my stories, but this request is because the more reviews, the easier it will be for my books to turn up in searches and be found by others. A couple of sentences are fine. (for instance, "loved it!") Hint-hint! :)

Also, you can click the "follow" button on my Amazon author page and you'll get an update when I publish new books. My Amazon author page is: www.amazon.com/author/kelliwilkins

Be sure to check out my new blog pages for Contemporary Romances and Historical 
Romances. And don’t forget to visit my blog each week to read “Inside Looks” at the making of my books, interviews, and more. Why not follow along & invite your social media friends? The link is: http://kelliwilkinsauthor.blogspot.com/

You can also sign up for my newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/HVQqb

Thanks for your support & I hope you enjoy my books. They were a lot of fun to write. I’m working on new titles for 2018, so stay tuned for updates!

Happy Reading,


Kelli

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Kelli Talks Horror Movies for Halloween!




Hi everyone!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

In honor of the Halloween holiday (it's my personal favorite and yes, those are my “vintage” 1970s decorations above), I’m sharing a bit about my favorite horror movies. 

Although this is off my usual topic of writing, writing and movies are connected – after all, every movie begins with a story idea. And, as some people may know, I majored in film studies in college.  So I’ve been watching movies and writing about them forever.

Horror movies (like ice cream) come in a variety of flavors, and horror movie fans/buffs have their personal likes and dislikes. Some people are devoted to the classic 1930 and 1940 Universal Studios “monster” films starring Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. Others enjoy the British Hammer and American International films of the 1960s and 1970s. Those are famous for featuring Peter Cushing, Vincent Price, and Christopher Lee.

Some fans are attracted to a specific genre (torture porn, mutant hillbilly families, camping, killer clowns) or a particular type of monster (vampires, werewolves, zombies). Still other folks are loyal to a specific character (Jason Voorhees) or a franchise (Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm St., SAW)

At this time of year, you can find almost any kind of horror movie or monster on TV or available for screaming... I mean, streaming. Horror movie fans can practically glue themselves to the couch and catch all day marathons of their favorite movies on about 1000 channels. (I actually did that yesterday!)

I could go on and on (really!) about what makes a good (scary) horror movie, but here’s a list of my favorites (in alphabetical order – with 2 ties.). They’re not all necessarily gory or scary, but they have a good story, tense camera work, or are just plain cool.

The Amityville Horror (1975) – Some houses are cheap for a reason! Skip the sequels & remakes.

Dog Soldiers (2002) – Best werewolf movie ever.

Dracula (1931) tied with The Mummy (1932) – Can’t choose between them!

Evil Dead (1983) – Bruce Campbell stays in the worst cabin ever – yey!

Halloween (1978) tied with Black Christmas (1974) – Both are classics that freaked people out – and are strikingly similar (watch them back to back!).

King Kong (1933) – A classic for its time – the island part is the best.

The Other (1972) – Often overlooked story about creepy twins – need I say more?

Pitch Black (2000) – Life on other planets isn’t always nice.

Rosemary’s Baby (1968) – Paranoia and persecution = Polanski.

And, in my personal favorite genre, 1970s horror movies, here are the top ten. Some are considered classic or revolutionary and others are just plain bad. (The “so bad they’re good” kind!)

Bad Ronald (1974) – Who’s living behind your walls?

Black Christmas (1974) – Yes, this makes BOTH lists. It’s the first really creepy Christmas movie and a true classic!

The Car (1977) – Before Christine started trouble, this scared everyone.

Dark Night of the Scarecrow – Okay, it’s really 1981, but who won’t jump at the last scene in this TV movie?

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (1973) – When someone tells you not to open something, don’t!

Frogs (1972) – One of my favorites – original poster had a hand hanging out of the frog’s mouth.

The Hills Have Eyes (1977) – A family goes camping and meets another, stranger, family.

Race with the Devil (1975) – Again, while trying to go camping, a group meets up with 
trouble (anti-camping movies are their own genre!)

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – The horror classic about a dysfunctional family – and there’s no blood – really! (RIP, Gunnar.)

Twisted Brain (1974) – Horror in high school (makes a great double feature with Bad Ronald).

So there you have it, my take on horror movies. What are yours? What do you think of these? Check a few out and enjoy them – at your own risk, of course!

And while we’re talking movies… what’s my ALL-TIME FAVORITE movie with the word “horror” in the title? It’s not a horror movie... it’s… THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW.

And what horror/Halloween music do I listen to? Two recommendations: Book of Love’s CD Book of Love. The whole thing is great, but download the song “Witchcraft” to get an idea. And, anything by Midnight Syndicate.



Have a happy Halloween everyone! And a blessed New Year to all who are celebrating!

Kelli

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Kelli’s Quill - Haunted October 2017 Issue



Hi everyone! It's the most wonderful time of the year again (at least for me!). I'm celebrating all things Halloween with a look at my paranormal romances & giving out a few treats. 

New Paranormal Romance Release

My paranormal comedy, Beauty & the Bigfoot, was released in late September. It's an unusual look at the legend of Bigfoot and blends the paranormal with humor, drama, and spicy love scenes. (If you think you know how it ends, think again!)

Beauty & the Bigfoot
Can true love exist between the species?

Tara’s world is anything but normal. Her father is known as the resident crackpot – just because he’s on a personal mission to catch a Sasquatch. Despite all of the “Bigfoot evidence” cluttering their house, Tara never really believed in Bigfoot – until the day her father brought him home.

She affectionately names her father’s prized catch ‘Joe’ and discovers there’s something oddly familiar – and erotic – about him. With a media circus descending on her father’s ranch and a showdown brewing with the local sheriff, Tara risks her life to save Joe.
When Tara finally succumbs to her animalistic urges, she learns that Joe is not exactly who – or what – he seems. Joe is more than a Sasquatch – he’s her soul mate!

Order Beauty & the Bigfoot here:



More Paranormal Romances

Don’t miss Kelli’s other paranormal romances, Confessions of a Vampire’s Lover, The Viking’s Witch, and Killer in Wolf’s Clothing. Here are the book summaries & links:

Confessions of a Vampire’s Lover is a different type of romance. For starters, the novella is told in the first person from the hero’s point of view. The story also makes use of a setting where you don’t normally find vampires—the beach! 

Confessions of a Vampire’s Lover

The moment Brian spotted Anya sitting on the moonlit beach, he was hooked. Beautiful, smart, and sexy, Anya was the girl of his dreams. She didn’t mind that he spent the hot summer days riding the ocean waves, because once the sun set, he belonged to her—all night long!

Everything is perfect between them—until Brian discovers Anya’s shocking secret. Can Brian give up the sun, sand, and surf to be with the woman he loves?

Read Brian’s first-hand account of their unusual love story in… Confessions of a Vampire’s Lover.



Order your copy here:

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/confessions-of-a-vampires-lover-kelli-a-wilkins/1017484568  

Killer in Wolf’s Clothing is a fun look at the werewolf legend and blends mystery, danger, humor, and sizzling love scenes. 

Killer in Wolf’s Clothing
A super aggressive Alpha male, a serial killer, and a visit to a kinky sex club… What has Larry gotten himself into?

When Larry learns that his boyfriend Greg changes into another man during the full moon, he has a hard time accepting it—until he meets Deke, Greg’s alternate Alpha personality.

Deke doesn’t play nice and has no time for games. He only wants two things—to get laid and to get revenge against the arsonist who murdered his friends. Finally free from Greg’s restraints, Deke is ready for action, and Larry is more than willing to submit to Deke’s needs.

Together, Larry and Deke set out to find the killer. Their hunt takes them to an all-night Alpha sex club where things heat up for the two of them. But when Larry unwittingly falls into the clutches of the murderer, it’s up to Deke—and Greg—to save him before it’s too late. 

Order Killer in Wolf’s Clothing here:


Set in Scotland, The Viking’s Witch is a great blend of spicy romance and paranormal elements. It has received excellent reviews and won a Gold IPPY award.

The Viking’s Witch

About to be burned at the stake by her fellow villagers, Odaria does what any betrayed witch facing certain death would do. She calls down a curse. Within seconds, rampaging Norsemen raid the village, capturing everyone except her.

But her reprieve is short-lived, and Odaria lands in the clutches of the Norse leader Rothgar. Can she remain true to herself and fight her growing attraction to this domineering man, or will she fall under his influence and be used for his ambitions?

After Rothgar witnesses Odaria’s powers firsthand, he strikes a bargain with her. The raven-haired beauty will use her magical abilities to help him with his quest in exchange for safe passage off the isle. But can this cunning woman be trusted, or is she using him to exact vengeance on her village?

Together they must fight bloodthirsty villagers, battle a mutinous band of Norsemen, find a missing Norse ship, and learn to trust each other . . . before time is up.

Order The Viking’s Witch Here:




Are you ready to be scared? Don’t miss Kelli’s horror stories, Dead Til Dawn and Kropsy’s Curse

Dead ‘Til Dawn

Disturbing the dead doesn’t prove you’re brave – it proves you’re stupid.

After touring Gettysburg battlefield, Jessica, Tim, and Steve decide to sneak out to the Devil’s Den for some late-night fun. Jessica’s friend Kathy objects, and warns them about trespassing where they’re not wanted.

Undaunted by ghost stories and fueled by his own arrogance, Tim races toward the Devil’s Den. When the group drives through mysterious battlefield fog, they find themselves surrounded by Civil War soldiers looking for a little fun of their own.

Kathy leaves the others to fend for themselves and flees to Little Round Top. Although she’s rescued by a kindhearted Union solider named Charlie, she refuses to believe that what she’s experiencing is real. As the nighttime battle rages on, Charlie introduces Kathy to other weary soldiers, and she quickly realizes she’s trapped in the land of the dead until dawn.
Order your copy from:


Beware of Kropsy’s Curse!

Late one Halloween night, two young boys venture into a secluded graveyard in the hopes of conjuring up a spirit. Although Kyle is skeptical and would rather be home eating candy and watching horror movies, he reluctantly goes along with Jerry’s plan. He doesn’t believe Ouija boards work—until this one starts spelling out a message…

This Halloween-themed 1500 word short story is a cautionary tale about playing with a Ouija board in a graveyard.

Available from:



MORE HORRORS!



Kelli’s short horror fiction has appeared in several anthologies. Visit her Amazon author page www.amazon.com/author/kelliwilkins or site www.KelliWilkins.com to see all her terrifying tales.

A Few Treats! Guest Blogs & More…

Read about the making of Beauty & the Bigfoot. Post includes a fun excerpt! https://celticladysreviews.blogspot.com/2017/09/beauty-bigfoot-by-kelli-awilkins.html


Kelli discusses creating secondary characters that shine! http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/2017/09/kelli-wilkins-talks-about-secondary.html

Guest Author Day with Kelli A. Wilkins - Kelli discusses creating a Rough Road to a HEA! https://dawnsreadingnook.blogspot.com/2017/09/guest-author-day-with-kelli-wilkins.html

Read about the making of Kelli’s spicy contemporary romance, Trust with Hearts: http://anastasiapollack.blogspot.com/2017/09/book-club-friday-guest-author-kelli.html

Two great reviews for Kelli’s historical romance, LOVING A WILD STRANGER. Post includes links to excerpts & more: http://kelliwilkinsauthor.blogspot.com/2017/08/reviewers-love-loving-wild-stranger.html


Kelli’s Corner
This month I’m sharing a treat! Here’s an excerpt from my interview with Patrick C. Greene, as we discuss writing horror and more…

Hi Kelli! Thank you for joining me today. Let’s kick off this interview with the most important question. Have you ever encountered a ghost?

Yes, I’ve had plenty of supernatural or paranormal encounters with spirits. My husband and I like to explore creepy old places (historical houses, castles, battlefields, etc.), whether or not they’re reputed to be haunted. Sometimes we come across spirits, sometimes not. Our travels have taken us all over: the UK, Gettysburg, Alcatraz, Eastern State Prison, local historical sites, and hundreds more I can’t even remember.

Sometimes we get a “feel” that there’s someone around and other times we’ve heard things that have no rational explanation such as voices, footsteps, and we’ve even seen a few apparitions. There are too many to go into details on all of them, but I wrote about seeing my husband’s deceased dog in the anthology Departed Pets. When I first saw the dog standing in front of me, I didn’t think much of it. He looked like he always did. Then a minute later I remembered that the dog had been dead for a few weeks.

These things don’t scare me or freak me out. I think they’re interesting. A lot of people have ghost stories, but most of them are reluctant to open up about what they’ve experienced.

What’s the most shocking book or story you’ve ever read?
I’ve read a lot of things that have stuck with me for one reason or another. The first horror story I ever remember scaring me (and still sticks with me) is “Wendigo’s Child” by Thomas F. Monteleone. It was in an anthology for children called Monster Tales: Vampires, Werewolves, & Things. I read it when I was in grade school. Anyone who has read it understands the last line. “It was looking up at him.”

Read the rest of the interview here:

Want more? Read another horror-themed interview here: https://www.killionslade.com/author-interview-kelli-wilkins-thursday-night-bingo/

I hope you enjoyed this issue of the Quill. Please share it with your social media friends. I welcome feedback and questions from readers, so drop me a line with your comments. 

Happy Haunting!

Kelli

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Writing Horror Fiction 101



Hi everyone,

It’s October, and my favorite time of year! It’s the perfect season to read, write, and think about horror stories…

As most people know, I divide my time between writing horror and romance. When it comes to horror, I’m always asked a lot of questions: How does a person write a horror story? What makes a great one? How can you make a convincing story about a monster if monsters aren’t real?

I answered all of these questions in my non-fiction writing guide, You Can Write—Really! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Fiction. Here’s an excerpt from the section on writing horror:

First, it’s important to realize that horror can take many forms – gore-filled splatter-punk with buckets of blood… mysterious, cursed people living in isolated Gothic castles (or tropical islands)… psychological unsettling horror that makes you feel uneasy… or your ordinary “classic” monsters such as vampires, ghosts, zombies, and werewolves.

My horror stories tend to be based in psychological terrors rather than blood and gore. They’re set in a wide range of seasons and settings, and my characters run the gamut from small children (The Ape) to mentally fragile suburban housewives (Sometimes Monsters are Real).

Each kind of horror story has its fans, probably because different people are scared of different things (heights, monkeys, bridges, etc.). But whatever type of horror story you write (or read) there are a few universal elements that should go into any horror tale.

Horror readers want to be scared (or at least made to feel nervous), so start scaring people on page one. Use a clever hook, details, and setting to pull readers in. Start with a pool of blood on the floor or give us all the details of your haunted house. Let readers experience what it feels like to be chased across a field by a werewolf.

In horror, you can write almost anything and get away with it. Play on childhood fears and things people hate (or are afraid of). Here’s a short list: cats, clowns, creepy dolls, being buried alive, stuffed moose heads, basements, closets, the dark…

While you’re writing, keep the tension and suspense constant. Enhance anticipation and fear in layers. Your novel or short story needs twists and turns to keep the reader engaged and wondering, “What happens next?” Be sure to end scenes (and/or chapters) with a cliffhanger or another danger.

As with any story, the author has to establish a believable setting. Whether your tale takes place in a gritty, post-apocalyptic city or a foggy rural graveyard, you need to give your readers a concrete foundation of where the story is taking place.

Readers want to feel as if they are there, experiencing the events along with the main characters. Use lots of details (sights, smells, sounds) and props to make your descriptions come alive. My story, Kropsy’s Curse makes great use of setting. What’s better than a horror story set in a graveyard on Halloween?

Remember, your job as a writer is to get readers to suspend their (dis)belief and buy into your story. You don’t have to go into a lengthy explanation of how these strange things are possible, just give your readers a compelling reason, have your characters believe it, and move on. In my novella, Dead Til Dawn, the heroine finds herself transported back in time after walking through a mysterious fog. She doesn’t understand how or why it’s possible, but she’s forced to accept it… if she wants to survive.

If your antagonist is a monster (of the non-human variety) you must believe your monster is real (whether he’s a vampire, a werewolf, or a slimy sewer creature). If you don’t write the creature believably, readers won’t buy into it. Make your monster as real as any other human character and show him in action.

And because your monster is not human, it’s okay for readers to hate him. They should know he’s bad news from the start of the story, so make him awful. You don’t want readers (or other characters) sympathizing with your monster — you want them to fear him.

If your monster is human (serial killer), depict him at his worst. Don’t shy away from showing him doing really bad, socially unacceptable things. Horror stories are generally dark and explore themes and ideas that expose the bad side of people. If you’re not comfortable going to “the dark side” to write terrifying stuff, you may want to consider writing thrillers or suspense stories.

Your human “monster” needs to be fleshed out. Develop his character through details, give him a history, and show why he’s so warped. If your villain is a racist, show readers how nasty he is through his actions, dialogue, or vocabulary. Make readers hate him. Get readers emotionally involved so they can’t wait for him to get what he deserves in the end. (And he will!)

When creating a human monster, take cues from reality. Most predators are cunning, manipulative, without remorse or conscience, and have a sense of entitlement. They’re great at tricking people and identifying weak spots or vulnerabilities. They are practiced liars and good at covering their tracks to avoid detection. In general, people underestimate them. Many serial killers blend into society and nobody suspects a thing—now isn’t that scary?

And try to avoid clichés like the plague! Masked killers hunting campers in the woods, serial-killing cannibal families, miserable Goth vampires in period costume, and mindless zombie attacks have all been done to… well, death. And please don’t mix monsters. Only include one primary menace/monster in your story. Don’t have vampires, werewolves, zombies, and demons attacking a cursed town during a full moon on Halloween. It’s overkill – and not in a good way.

When writing horror, don’t be afraid to break patterns, make your characters different, or have them go against stereotype. Give readers something unexpected, turn a cliché on its ear, or use a different point of view – it’ll make your work stand out. Why not set your werewolf story in Hawaii? My paranormal romance, Confessions of a Vampire’s Lover, takes place where you normally don’t find vampires... the beach!

We all know that October is “horror month” because of Halloween, but there are plenty of spooky things going on the rest of the year. Loyal readers and writers of horror fiction know that a good horror story is just as scary on a warm June day as it is at midnight on Halloween. Remember, JAWS took place in the summer, and a haunted house can be terrifying on a rainy March afternoon…

Remember, when writing horror, the only limit is your imagination!

Here are two writing exercises to motivate you to write a horror story of your own. How will you scare people?

EXERCISE 1: Take one of these first lines and write a few paragraphs about it. See what ideas come to you as you start writing.

Steve knew his house was haunted, but that didn’t bother him. He had bigger problems.

On a warm June day, the body of Ann Marie Duncan washed up on shore.

Mike got a strange call from Dave on Friday. After that, he never heard from him again.


EXERCISE 2: Here are some wild “what if” questions to get you thinking about story ideas. Pick a few and write three to five paragraphs about each. What if…

…your character inherited a haunted house and knew the ghosts?

…a killer picks his victims according to their birth sign?

…the weird Goth kid down the block really is a vampire?

…a woman finds a blood-soaked clown hiding in her garage?

Ready to write? Order your copy of You Can Write—Really! here:















Next week I'll be sharing a look at my favorite horror movies! Stay tuned to be scared!

Happy Haunting,

Kelli