I thought I'd post the Feb. 2022 edition of my newsletter here for folks who'd like to see what they might be getting before they subscribe. If you like what you see, you can subscribe to my newsletter here:
Welcome to the
latest edition of Writing in the Dark! This time, along with all the Tim
Waggoner news you can’t live without, I’ll be talking about writing tips I
learned in acting class, my evolving views on content warnings, and one of the
things I hate most as a reader of horror novels. Let’s get to it!
of an odd one this time. For Christmas, my wife got me a Bram Stoker Funko Pop
figure. Trouble is, I already had one. My extra Bram needs a good home, so I’ll
send it to the eleventh person who emails me at firstname.lastname@example.org. US residents
only for this one.
haven’t forgotten my friends elsewhere in the world, though. For any non-US
residents, I’ll send an electronic copy of my how-to-write horror book Writing
in the Dark. I’ll send a copy to the first three people who email me. And
tell me which format you prefer: Mobi, PDF, or ereader.
I usually don’t have copies of my books for sale, but
sometimes people send me books to sign (with return postage, of course) and I’m
happy to do this. I’m also happy to sign stickers that you can place inside a
book and send them to you. Email me at email@example.com
if you’re interested.
Planet Havoc: A Zombicide Novel
Review copies of my forthcoming novel Planet Havoc:
Zombicide Invader are available at NetGalley! I’d appreciate it if you’d
give the novel a look and leave an honest review: https://www.netgalley.com/catalog/book/245927
Speaking of reviews, early ones for Planet Havoc
have been good, and Jonathan Maberry was kind enough to read an advanced copy
and provide a blurb!
“PLANET HAVOC is the best of all worlds –space
adventure, military SF, snarky humor, and zombies! Tim Waggoner brings the pain
and all the jolts in this rollicking action horror thriller!” – Jonathan
Maberry, NY Times bestselling author of the Joe Ledger thrillers and KAGEN THE
is due out in April and is available for preorder. Here’s a synopsis:
Scoundrels and soldiers band together to survive the
onslaught of alien-zombies spreading across the galaxy in this riotous
A deserted R&D facility tempts the hungry new
Guild, Leviathan, into sending a team to plunder its valuable research. The
base was abandoned after a neighboring planet was devastated by an outbreak of
Xenos – alien zombies – but that was a whole planet away... When the Guild ship
is attacked by a quarantine patrol, both ships crash onto the deserted world.
Only it isn’t as deserted as they hope: a murderous new Xeno threat awakens,
desperate to escape the planet. Can the crews cooperate to destroy this new
foe? Or will they be forced to sacrifice their ships and lives to protect the
Barnes & Noble Paperback
We Will Rise
My next horror novel is due out this July from Flame
In Echo Hill, Ohio, the dead begin to reappear,
manifesting in various forms, from classic ghosts and poltergeists, to physical
undead and bizarre apparitions for which there is no name. These malign spirits
attack the living, tormenting and ultimately killing them in order to add more
recruits to their spectral ranks.
A group of survivors come together after the initial
attack, all plagued by different ghostly apparitions of their own. Can they
make it out of Echo Hill alive? And if so, will they still be sane? Or will
they die and join the ranks of the vengeful dead?
You can preorder the book here:
Flame Tree Press: https://www.flametreepublishing.com/we-will-rise-isbn-9781787585249.html
Barnes & Noble Paperback
Barnes & Noble Hardcover
Writing in the Dark Workbook
This is my follow-up to Writing in the Book, and as
the title implies, it focuses on exercises that will help you improve your
horror writing. The book’s been edited and the layout is finished, and it’s
scheduled to come out in June. You can read more about it here:
Writing Poetry in the Dark
One day when I was exchanging emails with Jennifer
Barnes, my editor at Raw Dog Screaming Press who brought out Writing in the
Dark, I suggested it might be cool if they brought out a book on writing
horror poetry. A couple months later, Jennifer said they were indeed going to
produce such a book, and would I mind if they use Writing in the Dark as part
of the title. (Writing in the Dark started as the name of my blog, then became
the name of this newsletter, and finally the title of my how-to-write-horror
book.) I said sure, and thus history was made. Stephanie M. Wytovich,
award-winning writer of poetry and fiction, edited the book, which contains
essays on the craft of writing horror poetry from the best practitioners in the
business such as Linda D. Addison, Michael A. Arnzen, F.J. Bergmann, Carina
Bissett, Leza Cantoral, Timons Esaias, Jeannine Hall Gailey, Claire C. Holland,
Jim and Janice Leach, Donna Lynch, Alessandro Manzetti, Jessica McHugh, Cynthia
Pelayo, Saba Syed Razvi, Marge Simon, Christina Sng, Lucy A. Snyder, Sara
Tantlinger, Joanna C. Valente, Bryan Thao Warra, and Albert Wendland.
I’m not a poet, but I appreciate good poetry, and I
was thrilled when Stephanie asked me to write a foreward for the book. You can
read more about the book at the link below:
A Little Aqua Book of Marine Tales eBook
This originally appeared in a limited hardcover
edition as one of Borderland Press’ legendary Little Book series, but now it’s
available in a more affordable eBook edition!
Sales to Apex and Night Land
After years of trying, I finally sold a story to Apex
Magazine! It’s a horror story called “In the Monter’s Mouth.” I don’t yet
know when it will appear, but I’ll tell you when I do. I was thrilled to sell a
story reprint to Japan’s Night Land Quarterly for translation.
“Cast-Offs” originally appeared in the anthology Cutting Block Party
several years ago.
Kolchak 50th Anniversary Graphic
When I was a kid, I loved the Kolchak, the Night
Stalker TV series. Cark Kolchak was a dogged everyman reporter who fought
paranormal creatures only because no one else would. Kolchak’s fiftieth
anniversary is coming up, and I was thrilled to be asked to contribute a story
to a graphic novel celebrating Kolchak. My story depicts Kolchak’s encounter
with a family of wererats. It’s called “The Nest,” and it’ll be illustrated by
Clara Meath. She’s an awesome artist and you can see some of her work here: http://www.comiconart.com/artistgalleryroom.asp?artistid=223
This is a double bucket-list item for me. I’ve always
wanted to write a Kolchak story and I’ve always wanted to write a script
for a comic book. Now I’ve done both in one go!
You can learn more about the graphic novel at its
Kickstarter link. There’s going to be an open submission period for prose
stories about Kolchak too, and you can learn more at that there as well.
New Blog Entries
I’ve posted a couple new Writing in the Dark blog
entries since my last newsletter. “Like the Cool Kids” talks about the myth of author
cliques that act as gatekeepers in traditional publishing, and “You Can’t Fire
Me” discusses why writers might want to quit writing altogether and reasons why
they shouldn’t. You can read the entries at the following links:
Creative Writers and the Community College
Here's a link to an article I wrote twenty years ago
about creative writers finding teaching jobs at community colleges. Full-time
college teaching positions may be a hell of lot scarcer these days, but much of
the info still holds true, I think. So if any of you are thinking about
teaching college writing courses, you might want to check it out:
The Literary Genius of Movie Novelizations
I was honored to be one of the writers interviewed for
this article on writing movie novelizations.
WHAT I’M WORKING ON
I have sleep apnea and use a CPAP machine to help me
breathe normally when I sleep. Recently, I was informed that my CPAP was
recalled due to a cancer risk. My doctor told me to stop using my machine and a
new one would be ordered for me. Unfortunately, that was several months ago. So
many people need new machines that it’s taking a while for manufacturers to
meet the demand. This means that my sleep isn’t so great right now, and during
the day I’m often tired and fuzzy-headed. As you might imagine, my writing
production has slowed because of this. I’m pecking away at The Atrocity
Engine, the first of my new horror/urban fantasy trilogy for Aethon Books,
and I have a couple stories for anthologies I need to write. Sometime soon I’ll
get started on a new how-to-write book for Raw Dog Screaming Press. It hasn’t
been officially announced yet, so I can’t tell you anything else about it. I’ve
toyed with the idea of writing a middle-grade horror novel, but I haven’t done
anything about it yet.
Send all the caffeine my way, please.
THE MIND OF A HORROR WRITER
One of my pet peeves as a reader of horror fiction is
when authors don’t take into account characters’ interest in strange/disturbing
events. For example. I’m currently listening to Bentley Little’s The Bank
on audio. I love Bentley’s fiction, and I’m enjoying the book quite a lot. But
in the novel, nearly twenty people, all who work at the same bank, are found
dead in a field outside town. (This happens early in the novel so my telling
you isn’t really a spoiler.) One of the dead people has an obvious cause of
death, but the others don’t. Weird, right? Well, not only don’t the townsfolk
freak out about this much, they don’t think much about it or discuss it amongst
themselves. And no one is texting back and forth about it or posting about it
on social media. Worse, no news media shows up to cover this bizarre story –
not even a reporter from the local town paper! I see this kind of thing happen
a lot in horror. Writers seem so focused on moving their plot forward that they
don’t fully consider the ramifications of the events they’re writing about. The
townsfolk in The Bank would be upset about the murders and talk about
them – in real life or virtually – a lot, almost to the exclusion of anything
else (at least for a while). And reporters throughout the state as well as
national and maybe even international media would quickly show up to cover the
bizarre deaths. The media would be omnipresent in town, and they’d bug law
enforcement and regular citizens alike to get interviews and sound bites. The
media might not become a major aspect of the story, and they might even fade
out of the story for the most part as the plot moves on, but they’d still be in
background somewhere. But not having any media at all present – as well
as no social media discourse about the murders – is extremely unrealistic, and
their absence always throws me out of the story.
So how do I handle the issue of the media in my
Many of my novels take place over the
course of a few hours, and there often isn’t time for news media to become
alerted to the weird stuff going on.
My characters are usually so caught up in
dealing with weird stuff that they don’t have time to post about it on social
The situation might only impact a few
characters, so the incidents aren’t known – and maybe never will be known –
outside their circle.
I might have law enforcement try to
conceal the more bizarre/extreme aspects of an incident to keep news media from
becoming involved (as long as they can, anyway).
I have news media show up for a scene or
two to establish their presence, but they don’t play a big role in the story.
I’ll show someone post a message on social
media or read one, send a text or receive a text, talk to someone on the phone,
etc. about what’s happening. I’ll do this once or twice to show that people are
upset about what’s going on, but I don’t make it a major part of the story.
Sometimes I’ll make the news media and
social media a significant aspect of the story. I may do this by having one
reporter be a supporting character or even a main character. This reporter
stands in for all the other media that’s present in the background. I might
have characters stay in regular phone/text/social media contact with friends or
family during a story (although I’ll make sure not to overdo this).
So if you write fiction where anything newsworthy
happens – especially something way out of the ordinary – consider using
some of the techniques above to make your story more realistic, at least in
terms of how reporters and social media are presented.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE PAGE
The debate about whether to include content warnings –
especially in horror novels – flares up from time to time on social media. This
seems to me to be something younger readers (younger as in people who haven’t
hit middle age yet) who interact a lot on social media want. The concept seems
of more concern to indie and self-pubbed writers than it does to traditionally
published writers as well. It’s been an issue in college classrooms too,
although my sense is not so much as it once was.
Some small-press publishers include content warnings
with their books, some leave that up to individual authors. Some self-published
authors include them, others don’t. On Twitter, the people who believe in
content warnings often do so with an almost zealot-like fervor, and they’ll
condemn anyone who doesn’t agree with them 100% as completely devoid of empathy
for their fellow humans. And some people who don’t believe in content warnings
treat those who do as if they’re immature wimps and are very condescending
toward them. My guess is that, as with most things in life, those at the
extreme ends of the scale are the minority, but they are the loudest and
therefore get the most attention.
I have no objection to anyone using or not using
content warnings in their work or to any readers who desire content warnings or
who don’t. To each their own. I’ve debated for a while whether or not to
include content warnings with my novels. My horror fiction often contains
extreme elements, and I certainly don’t want anyone to be traumatized by
reading my books. But as a reader, I’ve never felt the need for content
warnings. If I want to get a heads up before I choose to read a book, I
consider a book’s genre, check any reviews I can find, look for social media discussions,
check the author’s website, and do a general Google search to see what’s been
written about the author and the book in question. The information I need is
already out there, and – better yet – it comes from a variety of sources, not
just the author or publisher. How do they know what I might find upsetting in a
story? I also come from a generation (I’m almost 58) that believed individuals
should deal with disturbing material on their own. We assumed if people found
horror upsetting, they wouldn’t read it. And if they started to read it, and it
proved too much for them for whatever reasons, they’d put the book aside and
choose to read something else. Plus, as a teacher, I think it’s good for people
to push past their comfort levels, at least a bit, if they can. It’s how we
learn and grow.
But I also know trauma survivors who will literally
have flashbacks if they encounter anything in a story that triggers them. These
people are aware of their limits and avoid anything that might set off a
flashback, but sometimes they read (or watch) something that unexpectedly sets
off a flashback anyway, but they accept this. They took a risk, it resulted in
a bad outcome, and they deal with it. But these people are in their forties and
So many younger people are so focused on being kind to
each other – which is a wonderful thing! – that they don’t want to hurt anyone,
intentionally or otherwise. And of course, they don’t want to be hurt either.
Who does? So content warnings might seem to them as an absolute necessity.
Movies have ratings and food has a list of ingredients. Why shouldn’t fiction?
they argue. Some also suggest that not providing content warnings can hurt your
book sales, but I suspect that goes more for self-pubbed and indie writers than
for those traditionally published (but I don’t know for sure).
So, wanting to do the right thing, I read as much as I
could on content warnings, read social media posts about them, and wrote a blog
on my thoughts about them, which you can find here: http://writinginthedarktw.blogspot.com/2021/06/im-warning-you.html
In the time since I wrote this blog, I continued
reading and thinking about content warnings, and here’s where I currently
My first principle as a human is Do No Harm. I thought
content warnings might help me avoid hurting anyone, but since the advent of
content warnings in fiction some years ago, a number of psychological studies
have been done, like this one: https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/trigger-warnings-fail-to-help.html
These studies have found that content warnings do not
help people, and they can actually hurt them by centering trauma as a defining
characteristic of one’s personality, making it more difficult for people to
deal with their trauma.
So, given the current data, if content warnings serve
no useful purpose and might actually cause harm, I won’t include them in
my work. I understand that some readers really want them, and that not
including them might cost me sales and lose me readers, but unless new studies
provide different data, I won’t risk hurting any readers.
Again, I make no judgments about readers, writers, or
editors who believe content warnings should be provided in books. Everyone must
do what they think is best.
If you’d like to include content warnings in your
books, though, here’s a helpful source on how to do it: https://jamigold.com/2019/08/content-warnings-how-and-what-to-include/
AND PUBLISHING TIPS
Book Recommendation: Refuse to Be Done by
Matt Bell is a wonderful
writer and teacher, and he has a craft book on revising fiction called Refuse
to Be Done coming out in early March, and I highly recommend it.
Barnes and Noble
Matt also puts out a fantastic newsletter filled with
writing tips and writing exercises. I highly recommend it as well: https://mattbell.substack.com/
WANT TO STALK ME IRL?
are the cons I’m planning on attending this year, Covid willing.
Denver, Colorado. May 12-15, 2022.
World Fantasy Convention 2022, New Orleans. Nov. 3-6,
WANT TO STALK ME
to follow me on social media? Here’s where you can find me:
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZEz6_ALPrV3tdC0V3peKNw
UNTIL NEXT TIME
it for now. Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions for me or
writing/publishing topics you’d like me to talk about in future newsletters –
or you just want to get in touch with me – email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.