The Benefits of Membership in the Horror Writers Association: A RavenCon Panel

An amazing opportunity! As I am fond of saying, you need to get involved if you want to learn what you are missing. Take the chance and attend those panels. Find out what it is like to be a member.


by María Badillo

Many look at the writing process and declare it a solitary practice. Correction: the art and craft of writing involves a community of artists, editors, and publishers. Going it alone is nearly impossible and ill-advised. Thankfully, all the resources needed are well within reach.

At Virginia’s fantasy and science fiction conventionRavenCon, one panel discussed just this notion. Members of the Horror Writers Association, Virginia Chapter, gathered to talk about the benefits of joining a community of likeminded literary professionals sharing their passion for the craft.

Bryan Nowak—Membership Coordinator of HWA Virginia—spoke about the resources on the HWA website. Members receive lists of agents, bookstores, editors, libraries, and markets seeking horror writers. Nowak also pointed out the wealth of information pertaining to writing contracts, promotional opportunities, classes for writers, a mentorship program, and much more.Horror.orgis the hub for everything a horror writer could need…

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Review: Come With Me, by Ronald Malfi

Come With Me by Ronald Malfi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Imagine, if you can, careening down a path you thought you knew so well that every twist and turn of the path was known to you even before you had a chance to see the next turn in the road. I mean, you knew that path well enough that no matter what happened you thought you could handle it.

Next, I want you to imagine what it would be like if that path suddenly no longer made any sense to you and as matter of fact, now you found that monsters lie in the darkness on either side and the slope became so impossibly steep that you had no choice but to continue on for climbing back up the hill was impossible.

I argue that this is quandary we find our protagonist Aaronn Decker in.

Truth in advertising, I have been a Ronald Malfi fan for son long. It is hard not to love his work. You have not heard of Ronald Malfi? Have you never heard of Stephen King, or Josh Malerman? How have you never heard of Ronald Malfi, the master of true psychological horror? Well, read on and pick up a copy of this book.

In his latest offering, Come With Me, we see the life of Aaron Decker as he is after the death of his wife. Guilt and grief stricken, we find a man searching for a way to get out of this miasmic existence when a series of strange occurrences lead him to discover something his wife, Allison, tried to keep hidden for so many years.

What was she hiding? I would argue her personal obsession as well as cross to bear. An obsession which quickly becomes Aaron’s to see through when he discovers a file of notes along with a handgun. This grabs Aaron by the nose and leads him to see the truth and complete the quest his wife was on.

By the end of the book, you finally are left to ponder what Allison means in the very beginning of the book, when she implores Aaron, “Come with me.” I know it certainly left the question in my head. A question I will certainly bother Ronald for an answer for, next time I see him. That question, and I don’t think I am giving anything up here, is this. Was Aaron supposed to die with Allison that morning? And yet, you have to read the book to understand why I ask this.

Amazingly well written, there is a danger in reading this book as it will ensure you forget about eating and sleeping. You simply have to know how it all ends and that is the challenge with a book like this. I would also add that if Come With Me is not made into a miniseries or a full-length movie, I will feel there is little justice in the world. And yet, no film adaptation would ever do the book justice. It is just not possible to improve on this work.

I can’t find anything to ding this book in terms of writing and story style. There is one thing that is really just me being super nitpicky in terms of firearms, but I will let it rest since 99.9% of the people reading this book will never pick up on it. And it is literally no more than a sentence in the book that I would have taken issue with anyway.

Five out of five stars and I would give it more if I could. Come With Me is simply the best book I read in 2021.

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Wicked Review: Roadside Attractions

Roadside AttractionsRoadside Attractions by Eric Lahti
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What you get when you mix which, a few devils, the spawn of Satan, and one wicked smart guy with incredibly sharp wit? That’s right, you get Eric Lahti’s latest offering, Roadside Attractions.

I like to be honest in all my reviews and point out whenever I’m already a huge fan of the author. Just to be clear, I am already a huge fan. With that out of the way, let me explain why.

Roadside Attractions is excellent ride through a no-name little one-horse town in the middle of the desert. Although I suppose it would be better to say that Roadside Attractions is an excellent stay in a one-horse town in the middle of the desert.

Eric is an extraordinary author because of the way he tells the story. The characters he creates leap off the page with incredible clarity in life. He has that unusual skill that you don’t find in many authors where he can take the most unbelievable and crafted in such a way that you willingly accept it.

When the character of Char is battling it out, I felt it. There were times when one of the demon characters went down, I wondered whether they were going to get back up again. And it was already stated that they could not die.

Eric did something that I don’t think I’ve ever seen done before. He created an entire world in the space of what was only a convenience store. The delicious descriptions, coupled with dialogue make for an amazing ride that is Roadside Attractions.

This is a fast-paced ride, well worth the price of admission. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Roadside Attractions right now. I promise you it will be one of your favorite summer reads. I do want to caution you though; it’ll only last you a couple days. Once you start reading it, you won’t put it down.

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Happy Christmas everyone!

And then it was Christmas morning. A time to remember who we are. A time to reflect on the incalculable goodness in the world. I know, 2020 was a stupid year, but I want you to reflect on two important things we may miss if we just throw our hands up in frustration and walk away from 2020.

1) This morning you woke up. That tells me that more is right with you than is wrong with you. Just taking another breath is a miracle unto itself. It is easy to forget that the odds of being alive and sentient are statistically against us. So, we are truly fortunate.

2) The world, as crazy as it seems, had countless stories of goodness this year. People stepping out of their norms and doing good for others. People got to know there families better and found new ways of doing things. People learned new skills and expanded their minds. Heck, I started a podcast. These are all good things!

As Tiny Tim says, “God bless us all, everyone.” So, I say, even in 2020, Happy Christmas to all! And, for you I have a special treat. On All Things Writing, I read the poem, “T’was the Night Before Christmas” as it was written in the early 1800s. I also included some interesting facts about the story. It turns out the beloved poem is filled with intrigue. T’was a fairly short podcast and I think fairly entertaining! Check it out here:

Review: Paid in Full

Paid in Full (Jax Rhodes #2)Paid in Full by Rachel Rawlings
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Wait … what? No, Jax!” That was going to be the title of this review and then I thought better of it. I didn’t want to scare anyone off.

I recently had the pleasure of reading the book, “Paid in Full”. This is book two in the Jax Rhodes series.

In this novel we find out beloved Jax being her usual kick ass self. Pushing down doors and kicking in walls to get what she wants. There is just one small problem. The devil has not slacked in his thirst for his most beloved Jacqueline.

There is a huge twist in this novel which I will not give you, but let me just say that it left me screaming the aforementioned, “Wait … what? No, Jax!” Which was odd since I was sitting in an impossibly narrow seat aboard a Delta airlines flight about 34,000 feet in the air at the time. I got a few irritated glances and a request to “Shhhh” by a particularly scary flight attendant who looked like she could break me and may have been trained by the Russian special forces.

“Paid in Full” is a fun ride. Like I said, there is a twist at the end which made me more than a little uncomfortable. There is plenty of witty banter, sexual tension, stuff catching fire, shooting, fighting, and all of the wonderful things we expect from our Jax.

Well written and well edited, the characters were engaging and fun. I do definitely want to head over to the Mr. Royal (at least in my dreams) and maybe have a drink with Jax, Dane, or maybe Tobias if I get the chance. Who knows … maybe I can just sit down and have a beer while reading book three?

In the meantime I will raise a glass and salute Rachel Rawlings on an excellent second book.

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Book Review: The Golden Toilet

The Golden Toilet: Stop Flushing Your Marketing Budget into Your Website and Build a System That Grows Your BusinessThe Golden Toilet: Stop Flushing Your Marketing Budget into Your Website and Build a System That Grows Your Business by Steve Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

To most writers, marketing is very scary. And because it is so scary, it’s something that we tend to ignore until it’s clear that we can’t anymore. If you ask 100 different writers for their marketing plans, you are likely to only get a handful plans and a bunch of people staring at you with a bewildered look on your face. If you are a writer, whether traditional or independent, you must have a marketing plan in place. This is the only way to survive in a world where increasingly publishing a book is a streamlined process. Enter, “The Golden Toilet: Stop Flushing Your Marketing Budget into Your Website and Build a System That Grows Your Business.”

I first learned about this book when I got the opportunity to interview the author Mr. Steve Brown. To prepare for my podcast, I decided to read his book. While the book itself is geared towards a business with multiple employees, I got a lot out of it as an independent author. What I found most useful was the overall description of the process of marketing, and how scale-able those processes can be.

There were also several suggestions in the book which were immediately applicable to my situation. And I am happy to say that I was able to put these suggestions into place to immediate effect.

Beautifully written and engaging, I love Steve Brown’s way of writing. It was funny, unapologetic, and made sense to someone like me who does not have a firm marketing background. That is the key for a book like this, it must be applicable to the lowest common denominator. And I can guarantee, I am that lowest common denominator.

Presented in a way that is easily understandable, and easily trackable, Steve includes multiple resources to help you along your way. While this book is an item to buy, he does not come at you with a heavy sales pitch for his company’s other services. As a matter of fact, he offers quite a bit of advice for free, as well as pointing you to resources which can be immediately helpful.

I do not read a ton of nonfiction, but I’m glad I took the time to read, “The Golden Toilet: Stop Flushing Your Marketing Budget into Your Website and Build a System That Grows Your Business.”

For anyone who must make marketing part of their normal routine, I highly suggest this book. That only will help you figure out the course you need to take, but it will point you to resources that you need to internalize to make your business a success.

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A Silly and Fun Read

Having a Ball! (Adventures in Ghostsitting, #4)Having a Ball! by Misty Simon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Most of us go home at night, eat a little dinner, read, catch something on the television, and then fall asleep so we can do it all over again the next day. Rinse and repeat for most of our lives.

That is what Danner wants more than anything. To live the quiet life indulging in her secret art works and fantasy life which centers around her landlord. Her only bit of intrigue stems from her business working on people’s taxes and her occasional outings where she goes to her regular club. At least, that peace and quiet is what she thinks she wants.

When a grumpy gnome decides that Danner is officially his new master, everything falls apart in the time it takes the pizza guy to deliver the pizza her unwelcome houseguest is perpetually demanding. Matters only get worse when a magic eight-ball loves nothing more than to provide only the most obtuse answers.

“Having a Ball, Adventures in Ghostsitting,” is best described as a silly, sassy, fun book. There is plenty of room in our literary lives to enjoy something that deliberately takes us to a place where we are not thinking about the troubles of the day, but are increasingly obsessed with the havoc driven train wreck of a life Danner has.

Well written, well-paced, and full of characters who are likable, Having a Ball, by Misty Simon, is well worth the trip in my opinion. My highest praise of any book is that it did what it needed to do, entertained me. After all, isn’t that what good literature is supposed to do?

My only issue with the book, and this was indeed minor, is that there was too much lust driven inner dialogue with Danner. I don’t mind some of it, but it was a little thick in some parts. However, at no point did it make me want to put the book down.

Some have pointed out that there is not really a ghost in the book at all. While that is true, I wouldn’t get too wrapped around the axle with that point. It is a fun read even without a ghost.

I can recommend you read “Having a Ball, Adventures in Ghostsitting” if you are looking for a great read that adds some of that missing funny silliness in your life.

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Review: Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads SingWhere the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The word justice is a slippery thing. We think we understand it. We seldom ever do. So, what is justice?

I just finished reading “Where the Crawdads Sing”, by Delia Owens. I am going to warn you that if you are reading this and thinking about picking it up, you may want to grab a box of tissues as well.
To begin my review let me say that the story itself is gripping and pulls you along nicely. With vivid imagery and a world built so imaginatively you can just as easily visualize pulling up to Jummpin’s to fill up you boat or wandering through the labyrinthine maze of grasses along the banks. I know the areas (marshes and waterways) where this novel is set and can attest to a beauty which is captured in this novel.

Characters are extremely well crafted to the point where you cannot help but love them appropriately and hate them when it is equally appropriate.

In this world you watch Kya navigate a world that she not only isn’t a part of, but also doesn’t seem to want her either. In it you are confronted with a girl left abandoned who survives on her wits to reach a good measure of success despite what she has going against her.

And, as many good books go, that is when it all goes terribly wrong.

Kya is not without her friends. But she constantly keeps them at arm’s length. Something that she ultimately realizes is her way to keep people from hurting her. She learned, early on, that people are not only unreliable, but they will abandon you.

I am not spoiling anything when I tell you that her main troubles ultimately surround a boy she mistakenly falls in love with. Another person in her life who will hurt her.

Delia writes in such a way as to keep you guessing all along the way. I found myself rethinking the situation several times and from several different angles. My heart raced when all seemed lost and worried about a little girl named Kya that I watched grow up.

In the end the story left me contemplating this one question.

So, what is justice?

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Review: Payable on Death

Payable on Death (Jax Rhodes #1)Payable on Death by Rachel Rawlings
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Modern life is hard. It is considerably harder when you are from the bad part of town. Far worse when you have made a deal with the devil. Enter Jax. I have just recently read, “Payable on Death” by Rachel Rawlings.

First it is important to explain that Jax, the main character, starts out the book in a situation which seems, at first glance, about as bad as it can get. And you would be so very wrong.

Jax is kick ass to begin with. Her style has been honed over years of having fight a battle for her very soul. A war which has been waged by demons lurking around every corner. Little does she know that in the game of eternity, she is a pawn. Jax, decides it is time to turn the pawn into a queen and take the fight to the demons. Her fate may be written in stone, but she decides to take the rest of them with her if she can.

Well written and an engaging story, the characters are believable and lave a quality which makes you care for them. Rachel crafts a second world around modern-day Baltimore which is frighteningly not that far from the reality of Baltimore, but I digress.

A good dose of romance mixed in which normally is not my thing, but it is all so well done I enjoyed it.

I will warn potential readers that this is what I call a dense read in that there is a lot going on in the conversations and depictions. Tons of detail for people who are into those kinds of dense reads. And yet, the story still moves along at a good pace.

In the end, I very much enjoyed reading, “Payable on Death” by Rachel Rawlings and I am sure, if you like dark paranormal thrillers with a dose of romance thrown in, you will too.

-Bryan the Writer

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Review: The Unforgivable Sin

The Unforgivable Sin: When Heaven is lost, the killing begins. (The Hanna Braver Series Book 2)The Unforgivable Sin: When Heaven is lost, the killing begins. by D.B. Corey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have said it before, and I will continue to say it that you can judge a book by two factors which are inseparable from each other. Do you fall in love with the characters and do you wish that book would never end?

For I would argue that when a good book ends, you should feel a sense of loss like a good friend who is leaving you for the last time. And when something happens to the characters, you need to worry about them, feel for them, be sad for them.

Years ago I wrote a review of the wonderful book The Lesser Sin. It was a few years in coming, but I was ecstatic when the next book in the series, The Unforgivable Sin was released.

The main character of the series, Hanna Braver, is continually facing what some might refer to a s a crisis of conscious. Her family is seemingly targeted because of her actions, which were undertaken as the most noblest of intentions.

While Hanna struggles with real life and trying to deal with the ill fate of her own life, she finds a glimmer or hope in it all. But that hope is short lived as the ones who want her dead are resilient in their resolve.

I am not going to pepper this review with spoilers, but suffice it to say that The Unforgivable Sin, the second in the Hanna Braver series, is a masterfully written, engaging, and fast paced story which I can highly suggest.

The author, D.B. Cory is an amazing writer and I can’t say enough about this amazing series.

-Bryan the Writer

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