Monday, April 22, 2024

Their Words Live On


(NOTE: This is an expanded version of an article that appeared in my April 2024 newsletter.)

James L. Moore and Weston Ochse

Ray Garton

Recently three great writers and beloved members of the horror community passed away: Weston Ochse, James A. Moore, and Ray Garton. Wes and Jim were both fifty-eight, two years younger than I am, and Ray was sixty-one, one year older. As I age, I feel increasingly like a glacier that periodically loses pieces of itself. I endure, but I feel smaller. The deaths of fellow writers – those I knew personally and those who I knew only through their writing – always hit me hard. I was fortunate enough to sit next to William F. Nolan and Dennis Etchison at a dinner in Las Vegas during the first StokerCon. Bill was in his nineties, and at one point, he said the problem with being his age was that all his family and friends were gone, as were the writers he started out with. I’ve got a while until I hit my nineties (if I make it that far), but I’m starting to feel what Bill was talking about.

Steve Rasnic Tem, Dennis Etchison, some dumbass in a hat, William F. Nolan


Several years ago, I wrote a blog entry after horror author Paul Dale Anderson died. In it, I discussed what writers can do to combat the depression that comes with seeing other writers – mentors as well as contemporaries – die. You can read it here:

Paul Dale Anderson

 I didn’t know Wes and Jim as well as I would’ve liked. I saw both at various conventions over the years and we talked, and we interacted online. Wes and I shared the same agent, and he let me know that I was always welcome to visit him and Von (his wife, Yvonne Navarro) in Tucson. I wish I’d made the time to do so. Only a few months ago, Jim offered out of the blue to blurb my forthcoming short story collection, Old Monsters Never Die. I knew he was struggling with his health, though, so I didn’t take him up on it. (I didn’t want him to expend energy reading my book when he needed all the energy he could muster to heal.)  Now I wish I had, if only so he would’ve known how much a blurb from him would’ve meant to me. I admired and respected Wes and Jim – as writers, as positive presences in the horror community, and as human beings of great strength and grace who continued fighting until the end. I hope I can find even a fraction of their courage when my time comes.

I never met Ray in person, but we interacted online a number of times over the years. I read and enjoyed so many of his books, including the YA horror novels he wrote as Joseph Locke. I dedicated my 2015 YA horror novel Dark Art to him.




When I told him of the dedication via Facebook Messenger (and offered to send him a copy of the book), he wrote back:


“Wow, Tim, that is such a huge honor.  Thank you so much.  I CAN'T WAIT to read it!”


I was like, Holy shit! Ray Garton thinks my dedication is an honor?


Ray was kind enough to contribute a mini-interview to Writing in the Dark: The Workbook. Here it is:



Ray Garton, author of Live Girls


When you write horror fiction—and I suppose the same is true of fantasy and, to a certain extent, some science fiction—you’re writing about things that exist outside of reality, that are not a part of everyday human experience. As I see it, my first job is to make them a part of reality, of everyday human experience. Some will advise you to create the suspension of disbelief in your readers. That’ll work in a pinch, but I prefer to pass suspension and go straight for outright belief, always with varying degrees of success, I suspect. I try to weave the supernatural element so tightly into everyday human experience that the two can’t be separated. That usually involves building up the human part first, and once my characters are established, I insert the supernatural element, whether it’s a vampire, a werewolf, a ghost—whatever it is. By that time, I hope I have engaged the readers and gained their faith, which helps a lot when I add the supernatural stuff. By now, my readers know the characters and are, if I’ve done my job, involved in their lives, and they care about what happens to them. Then I make those characters suffer with the supernatural.

Any story that has a supernatural element needs a set of rules for that element to follow, and those rules must be diligently observed. A supernatural story without those rules is a cheat to the reader, I think, because you’re free to do whatever you want whenever you want to do it, which doesn’t always make sense as a story. You have to slip the rules into the proceedings in a way that doesn’t feel like a list: “You may be a werewolf IF …” followed by several signs of lycanthropy. Insert those rules in a way that the reader doesn’t notice. Yeah, I know, easier said than done. Once they’re in, you must follow them. Setting up rules and then violating them is just as much of a cheat to the readers as having no rules at all. But there’s a narrow sweet spot between the two, and that’s your goal.



If you’re a writer who’s been contemplating your mortality lately, and you haven’t established an author will yet, I wrote a blog entry about that too:


Over the last couple years, I’ve noticed younger writers who either have never heard of some of the horror luminaries who are no longer with us, or who’ve never read their work. Writers tend to read their contemporaries as well as writers they’ve made connections with via social media and at various events. It’s only natural. But I urge you not to forget those writers who’ve passed away. Not only can you learn a lot from them, by reading their work, you help keep them alive. Here are links to the bibliographies of the authors I mentioned above:


Weston Ochse:


James A. Moore:


Ray Garton:


William F. Nolan:


Dennis Etchison:


Paul Dale Anderson:


Following is a list of other horror writers who’ve left us within the last few decades. You can learn about their work on the Fantastic Fiction website, too:


Every single one of these authors is well worth your time and attention.


Robert Aickman

Jonathan Aycliffe

William Peter Blatty

Robert Bloch

Charles Beumont

Ray Bradbury

Gary Brandner

Hugh B. Cave

Basil Copper

Les Daniels

Harlan Ellison

J.F. Gonzalez

Ed Gorman

Charles L. Grant

Rick Hautala

James Herbert

Charlee Jacob

Ruby Jean Jensen

Jack Ketchum

Joel Lane

Richard Laymon

Tanith Lee

Brian Lumley

Richard Matheson

Michael McDowell

Brian McNaughton

Joe McKinney

Rex Miller

A.R. Morlan

John Pelan

Thomas Piccirilli

W.H. Pugmire

Anne Rice

Alan Rodgers

Mark Samuels

Michael Shea

Guy N. Smith

Peter Straub

Melanie Tem

Karl Edward Wagner

Robert Weinberg

Jay Wilburn

J.N. Williamson

Gahan Wilson

Rocky Wood

T.M. Wright


If there are any horror authors I’ve omitted, feel free to add their names in the comments section.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Personal Horror


(NOTE: This is a revised and updated version of an article I wrote some years ago. This version appeared in the Horror Writers Association Newsletter a while back.)


Genre fiction walks an extremely fine line. It needs to be familiar and comforting, while at the same time being different and surprising. We employ well-known tropes and story types to attract readers, but if we don’t do anything interesting with these elements, readers will turn away from our work, if they bother to check it out in the first place. How can we write compelling genre fiction without merely copying what other writers have produced throughout the decades? The answer is a simple three-letter word: Y-O-U. Horror readers don’t need another haunted house story. They need your take on the haunted house story, one that no one else has even written before, and that no one else but you could ever write.


In order to create effective – and original – horror, you have to dig into your own psyche and find out what scares you. Worried that no one will be frightened by the same things you are? Don’t be. As Aristotle said, the only way to get to the universal is through the particular. By focusing on your personal fears and giving them shivery life on the page, you’ll be connecting to your audience – guaranteed.


Do You Need to Re-Traumatize Yourself for Your Writing?


A word of caution before we get started. This article presents techniques for exploring your experiences in order to develop story material, and since we’re discussing writing horror fiction, some of those experiences may be difficult and even traumatizing for you to revisit. You do not need to harm yourself emotionally in order to write successful fiction. Delve as far into yourself as you’re comfortable, and maybe push a bit further, since we learn and grow by testing our boundaries. There are benefits to doing this beyond generating story material. You might experience catharsis or an emotional exorcism. You might gain insight into yourself or make peace with elements of your past – and you might create one hell of a powerful story. But I’ll stress it one more time: you do not need to retraumatize yourself.


You might be hesitant to write horror drawn from your personal experiences because you’re afraid readers will learn too much about you, and maybe judge you in the process. Fiction isn’t confession, though. You don’t have to let readers know where your stories come from. It’s none of their damn business.


That said, let’s move on to the good stuff – specific techniques for writing personal horror.


Look to Your Dreams


In our dreams, our defenses and pretenses are swept aside, and we are most ourselves.

Your dreams are unique; use them to write stories that are uniquely yours. In college, I had a friend who’d been keeping dream journals for years. Every morning when he woke, he spent a few minutes recording his dreams, getting them down on paper before they vanished from his memory. As time went by, he remembered more dreams each morning, until it wasn’t uncommon for him to have a dozen entries or more each day. That’s a hell of a lot of potential story material! You can record all types of dreams, of course, but the following might be of most use to you as a horror writer.

·       Recurring dreams. If you have a specific dream that repeats, there’s probably something about it that fascinates or mystifies you, if only on a subconscious level. You have a cognitive and emotional attachment to this dream. It’s important to you, maybe for reasons you’ll never fully understand, but that importance makes it excellent material for fiction. The earliest recurring dream I remember is one I used to have when I was four. I dreamed that a flying saucer landed in the cul-de-sac where my parents’ house was located, and a procession of dinosaurs emerged. To make it even better, the scene was overlayed with a crimson filter. I’m 60 now, and the memory of this dream has remained with me for over half a century. I haven’t used it in a story yet, but I’m sure I will one day, and it’ll be a story that no one but me could tell.

·       Dreams which scared or disturbed you. One of the most frightening dreams I ever had was one in which my father had become a vampire. There was nothing left of the man I knew. He was a soulless, unfeeling creature wearing my father’s shape like a costume. While I haven’t used this specific scenario in a story, the concept that our friends and family members may not be who we think they are – may, in fact, wish us harm – has appeared a lot in my fiction. The dreams that most scare you could be ones that lead you to strong themes to base stories on.

·       Dreams which stick in your memory. When I was nine, my Uncle Red died. He was like a second father to me, and his death hit me hard. I had two dreams about being visited by his ghost. In one, he was talking to me then became a disembodied head that continued growing larger and larger until it filled the entire room. He continued talking to me the entire time, but I can’t remember what he said. In another, he became a pink, cartoony thing with wiggly arms and legs, which was way more disturbing than it sounds. Either of these images are strong, personal ones, both different and striking ways to portray a ghost. I’ve never forgotten these dreams because of these images, and they’re unlike anything I’ve read about or seen in movies or TV. That’s what gives them their power. Your most memorable dreams can do the same thing for you – provide highly original images and concepts for your stories.

Something is Wrong with That – Seriously Wrong


I learned this technique from an interview with Stephen King published in the B&W magazine Tomb of Dracula in 1980. When the interviewer asked King the inevitable question about where he got his ideas, King said that he looked at an everyday, normal thing and told himself that something was wrong with it. Be like King. Take a look around you and let your imagination run paranoid. Why does that tree trunk look like it has a face on it? What are those red stains on the sidewalk? I was at a pharmacy once, and while I was waiting to pay for my prescription, I noticed a message displayed on the register’s screen: Have You Seen Bob? I’m sure the message was part of some kind of store promotion, but it seemed weird to me, seemed wrong. I’m sure I’ll get a cool story out of it someday.


Here's an exercise you can try:

·       Choose a minor aspect of your life or an ordinary event and tell yourself that something is wrong with it. See where your imagination takes you.

Pay Attention to the Wonderfully Weird World Around You


This was what I was doing in the pharmacy example above. When I first started writing at the age of eighteen, I realized that I wasn’t very observant, so I began training myself to be much more aware of my surroundings so I would have more material to draw on for stories – material that came from my actual lived experience instead of being recycled tropes from comics, movies, TV, and books. No one else in the world observes the same things I do in exactly the same way, with the same thoughts, feelings, and imaginative responses.  Here are some techniques you can use to help you observe more effectively.

·       Keep your eyes and ears open all the time. I spend a lot of time looking around and listening wherever I am. This is how I noticed “What About Bob?” on the pharmacy register. Several months ago, I was writing at a local Starbucks, and through the window I saw a procession of motorcycles accompanying a mobile Vietnam Veterans Exhibit. I began wondering what if the truck carrying the exhibit was unmarked? What if it contained something sinister and threatening? (This overlaps with “Something is Wrong With That.”)

·       Look for what seems out of place. Last summer, my wife and I took a trip to the Cleveland Art Museum. While we were there, I saw two strange men. One hurried into a room, stood before a single painting for several moments, then hurried out. The other was dressed in a candy-striped suit and bow tie. (My first thought was that I was looking at a Time Lord.) If and when I use these men in a story, I’ll likely combine them into one character, having the candy-suit man be the one to rush in and examine a single painting. Why will he do this? I don’t know – I haven’t written the story yet!

·       Look for what sparks questions. During our trip to Cleveland, my wife and I stopped at a wildlife preserve located on the shore of Lake Erie. On the beach we found groups of fish skeletons arranged in piles, and I wondered how the fish had gotten there and what had eaten them? We decided the bones were left by people who caught the fish, cooked and ate them on the beach, and then departed, leaving the bones behind. But my original questions about the bones could lead me to some interesting story ideas – especially if the bones weren’t from fish, but from something else.

·       Note your misperceptions. I’ll often mishear or misread something. (This seems to be occurring with more frequency the older I get.) I heard someone on TV say “My sister’s next,” but I thought they said, “My sister’s nest.” I decided to use that as the title for a story, wrote it, and submitted it to Cosmic Horror Monthly. It appeared in the March 2024 issue. This story would never have existed if I hadn’t misheard that one line of dialogue in the show.

·       Write down what you experience so you don’t forget it. I recorded all of the preceding examples in this section in the Notepad app on my phone. Whenever I want to write fiction – whether it’s a short story, novella, or novel – I pull up the app and read over the list, searching for an idea, experience, or phrase that grabs me and makes me want to start writing. I often don’t remember where specific items on the list came from, and I like when that happens. I don’t want reality to get in the way of my imagination!

If it Bleeds, it Leads


Current events can be good fodder for fiction. Pay attention to the events in the news or covered in documentaries which engage your emotions and stimulate your imagination and use them as springboards for your stories. But remember, you’re not a reporter – you’re a fiction writer fueling your creativity.

·       Look for stories/images which fascinate you, ones you can’t get out of your head. I once saw a photo in a newspaper of man who, every October, wore a clown mask when raking leaves in his yard, supposedly to entertain the neighborhood kids. The photo was very eerie, with the masked man standing by a tree as leaves fell all around him. I eventually used the image as the basis for a story called “All Fall Down.”

·       Look for stories/images that have a sense of mystery about them, which make you wonder why or say WTF? The guy in the clown mask definitely fell into this category for me. Over twenty years ago, when I was moving to the town where I currently live, I kept seeing fliers posted everywhere about a missing girl. I had two young daughters, and the thought that I was going to be moving them to a town where another young girl had disappeared was a scary one. Eventually, this experience helped form part of my novel Like Death. And while I haven’t used this yet, years ago I saw a news story about the new owner of a building who, when inspecting the roof, found a replica of an electric chair installed there. Definitely a WTF situation!

·       Write fiction, not polemic. Bothered by the rise of fascism around the world? Me too. Concerned about the climate crisis? I’m right there with you. But if I were to use either of these situations as the basis for fiction, I wouldn’t write the equivalent of an angry social media post. If you want to tell a story about fascism or the climate crisis, remember that you’re writing fiction, not nonfiction. With fiction, story and character always come first.

A Stroll Down Fear Street


This next section contains a number of questions to help you delve into your life and mine it for material for horror fiction. Remember what I said in the beginning of this article, though: You don’t need to retraumatize yourself to get story ideas, so feel free to skip any questions you’re not comfortable with. For the questions you do answer, remember that you don’t ever have to show your responses to anyone, so you can be as honest and detailed as you want.

·       What were you afraid of as a child?

·       Do you recall any specific events in your childhood during which you were deeply afraid?

·       What were you afraid of as a preteen? Do you recall any specific events during that period in which you were deeply afraid?

·       What were you afraid of as a teen? Do you recall any specific events during that period in which you were deeply afraid?

·       What were you afraid of as a new adult? Do you recall any specific events during that period in which you were deeply afraid?

·       What are you afraid of as an adult? Do you recall any specific events during that period in which you were deeply afraid? (Depending on your age, you might wish to answer this question for your middle-age and senior years as well.)

·       What do you imagine you’ll be afraid of in the next five years? Ten? Twenty? Thirty?

Once you’re finished, go over your different lists and see if there’s anything you can pull out and use as the basis for a horror story. Remember, you’re not trying to write autobiography. Your imagination may transform a memory until it’s unrecognizable to anyone but you.


Peering Into the Darkness


Now it’s time to get even more personal.


This next exercise is about delving deeper into your fears. I want you to respond to the following items in as much detail as you wish. You can write your responses as one-word lists, short phrases, full sentences, or complete paragraphs—whichever you like.

·       Write about a time (or times) when you experienced what you consider to be true horror.

·       Write about a time (or times) when family or friends experienced what you consider to be true horror.

·       Write about a time (or times) when you felt you were in true danger.

·       Write about a time (or times) when you felt family or friends were in true danger.

·       Write about a time (or times) when you experienced something bizarre and uncanny.

·       Write about a time (or times) when family or friends experienced something bizarre and uncanny.

·       What’s the worst thing that you can imagine happening to you?

·       What’s the worst thing that you can imagine happening to the people you love?

·       What’s the one thing that you fear becoming or doing in the future?

·       What dark part of yourself have you struggled with throughout your life?

When you’re finished, take a break if you need to. (Responding to items like these can be rough emotionally!) When you’re ready, come back to what you wrote and read over it. Are there any responses which spark story ideas? Do you see a pattern in the responses that suggests concepts or themes that you might use and return to in your work? Earlier, I mentioned the death of my Uncle Red when I was nine. That same year I nearly drowned in a lake. Those two experiences with mortality profoundly affected me, and I’ve revisited them in my fiction numerous times over the years.


Hopefully, I’ve given you some techniques that will help you take your horror fiction to new heights. Remember, we don’t need another Stephen King knock-off. We need what only you can supply – your fears and your dark imaginings. Now get writing. We can’t wait to read your personal horror.




Two Books Coming Out in April


It’s rare, but April is one of those months when I have two novels coming out at the same time: Lord of the Feast (April 16th) and The Atrocity Engine (April 30th).


Both books deal with the same mythos and share settings that I’ve used in a number of my novels, but Lord of the Feast is a horror novel and The Atrocity Engine is a dark fantasy adventure. You can enjoy each novel on its own terms, but it might be interesting to read both and see how I present my mythos in different ways.


Lord of the Feast


Daniel R. Robichaud II reviews Lord of the Feast! “Lord of the Feast is an entertaining mix of bloody horror and honest emotion and a welcome return to the surreal, gruesome horror hijinks that Waggoner’s longtime fans know and love.”




Twenty years ago, a cult attempted to create their own god: The Lord of the Feast. The god was a horrible, misbegotten thing, however, and the cultists killed the creature before it could come into its full power. The cultists trapped the pieces of their god inside mystic nightstones then went their separate ways. Now Kate, one of the cultists’ children, seeks out her long-lost relatives, hoping to learn the truth of what really happened on that fateful night. Unknown to Kate, her cousin Ethan is following her, hoping she’ll lead him to the nightstones so that he might resurrect the Lord of the Feast – and this time, Ethan plans to do the job right.


Order Links:


Flame Tree Press Paperback and eBook:


Amazon Paperback:




Barnes & Noble Paperback:


Barnes & Noble eBook:


ISBN-10: ‎ 1787586367


ISBN-13: ‎ 9781787586369


Lord of the Feast Blog Tour


Flame Tree is doing a blog tour for Lord of the Feast! If you want to follow along, here’s who to follow and when their entries will appear:


16 Apr

Donna Reads 03 (IG) @donnareads03


17 Apr

Bookish Fairytale (IG) @bookishfairytale

Penfold Layla (IG) @penfoldlayla


18 Apr

Fat Guy Reading (IG) @fatguyreading


19 Apr

A Little Mix of Vix (IG) @alittlemixofvix

Kaz Loves Books 9 (IG) @kaz_loves_books9


22 Apr

Bookshelf Wonders (IG) @bookshelf_wonders

Natural Bri Books (IG) @naturalbri_books


23 Apr

Worm Talk Book Club (IG) @worm_talk_book_club


24 Apr

The Larl Bookworm (IG) @thelarlbookworm


26 Apr

Lauren Bookstagram 3 (IG) @lauren.bookstagram3


26 Apr

Aratecla The Bookrat (IG) @aratecla_the_bookrat


The Atrocity Engine



Men in Black meets Hellraiser in this rollicking mash-up of urban fantasy and cosmic horror from four-time Bram Stoker Award-Winning author Tim Waggoner.


Creatures from dark dimensions infesting your home? Demonic beings trying to drive you insane? Alien gods attempting to destroy your universe?


Just call Maintenance.


This underpaid and overworked secret organization is dedicated to battling forces that seek to speed up Entropy and hasten the Omniverse’s inevitable death.


Neal Hudson is a twenty-year veteran of Maintenance. A surveyor who drives through the streets of Ash Creek, Ohio constantly scanning for the deadly energy known as Corruption. Since the death of his previous partner, Neal prefers to work alone, and he’s not happy when he’s assigned to mentor a rookie.


But they better learn to get along fast.


The Multitude, a group of godlike beings who seek to increase Entropy at every opportunity, are creating an Atrocity Engine. This foul magical device can destroy the Earth, and they don’t care how many innocent lives it takes to build it. (Spoiler alert: It’s a lot!)


Just another day on the job. . .


Praise for The Atrocity Engine

Here are some fantastic blurbs The Atrocity Engine has received so far!

“Waggoner offers a fresh variation on the trope of a covert agency combating evil in his blood-drenched Custodians of the Cosmos series opener.” – Publishers Weekly

“This gripping dark fantasy boasts an indelible cast and an unwavering pace.” – Kirkus Reviews

"THE ATROCITY ENGINE is a wild ride full of entertaining scenarios and scary monsters!" – Booklist

“THE ATROCITY ENGINE is a kick-ass cross-genre thrill ride of a novel! Holy moly! Tim Waggoner is easily one of today’s best horror writers.” – Jonathan Maberry, NY Times bestselling author of CAVE 13 and NECROTEK

"This is edge-of-your-seat Horror Fantasy. It's as if Stephen King wrote MEN IN BLACK!" —Scott Sigler, #1 NYT Bestselling author of EARTHCORE

“Fast-paced, cleverly thought-through, and deeply unnerving in all the right places—urban horror fantasy with a decidedly creepy difference. Don't read it in the dark!” – Diane Duane, New York Times bestselling author of TALES OF THE FIVE: THE LIBRARIAN

“A brutal, dark, and disturbing novel that will live in your nightmares. It’s so good!” – Horror Reads

Purchase Links


Amazon Hardback:




Audible Audiobook:


B&N Hardcover:




StokerCon 2024. May 30th to June 2nd. San Diego, California.


In Your Write Mind. June 27th to June 30th. Greensburg, Pennsylvania.


IGW Genre Con. August 17th and August 18th. Huntington, West Virginia.