Writing Horror That Appeals to Women

Photo Courtesy of Nathan O’Nions via Creative Commons
[Woman in Forest]So I want to talk about the experience I’ve had writing my horror-thriller series. Books One and Two are available now, and I recently sent the third book in the trilogy off to the editor. When I started writing about Dave Pulaski and the nightmare he awakened to in Tres Marias, a small fictional Northern California town, I didn’t set out to appeal specifically to men or women. I simply had an idea I wanted to try and set out to tell the best story I knew how.

Well, many months have passed, and I’ve noticed from a lot of the Amazon reviews that women seem to like these books. A lot. Now, I’m not trying to piss anyone off here by engaging in lame stereotypes, but frankly I was surprised. Books One and Two deal with an outbreak that’s responsible for creating a town filled with the ravening undead—a solid formula for attracting hardcore male readers. Looking back at what I wrote, I’m going to be so bold as to lay out some principles that made these stories women-friendly. And I would like nothing better than to have female readers respond, telling me that I am full of crap. Here goes …

1. The Writing Has to Be Good
This goes for male and female readers. Thanks to Amazon and others, it’s insanely easy to self-publish. And as a result, there’s a lot of drivel out there. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been sucked in by an interesting cover, only to discover that the author has published what is essentially an amateurish first draft.

I’m not saying, by any stretch of the imagination, that I am a brilliant writer. But I put a lot of work into my writing, and I do everything I can to ensure that what I end up with has been properly edited. So you can rest assure that when you pick up one of these novels, you’re going to get a professionally produced product.

2. It Has to Be about More than Horror
Okay, writing horror is fun. The genre is wide open and allows the author to go places that most literary fiction would blanch at. But stories should be about people. Things will happen, but it’s what the evil does to the characters that matters. Some will become heroes, others will hide, and still others will succumb to the evil.

My books feature all kinds of characters. And for the most part, they are flawed—especially Dave, the protagonist in this series. But that’s what it means to be human. Somehow, we must overcome our shortcomings and do something amazing in the face of Hell.

3. Redemption Is Key
Sure, there are plenty of stories out there that end with everyone dying. Those aren’t for me. I prefer to see a character go through the worst hell imaginable, then somehow survive—a changed person. Sounds like the Hero’s Journey, doesn’t it?

Look, I don’t know whether men like to read about characters who are redeemed. Hell, I don’t even know if women do. I’m going by my gut here, people. And my gut tells me that redemption is essential to any good story.

4. There Needs to Be a Love Story
In the midst of all the blood and the screaming, there is a strong undercurrent of Love in my series—the love between Dave and his wife Holly. I don’t think I would have written these books had there not been a love story. I have no idea if this element made for a grand story that is attractive to women. But I’m pretty sure that most men who read horror don’t give a rat’s tushy.

Comments, anyone?

Book Three Is Off to the Editor!

Photo Courtesy of Alessandro Baffa via Creative Commons
[Wedding Party]Hey, guys, I wanted to let you know that I reached a major milestone this week on the long road to finishing up my horror-thriller series. I’ve just finished Book Three and have sent it off to the editor. Now the real fun begins. Over the next few weeks I will update you on how things are shaping up in terms of a cover. Also, I wanted to let you know that I am in the process of rebranding the series. Stay tuned for some interesting news about that.

This has been quite a journey. When I started out writing Tell Me When I’m Dead, I honestly believed this would be a one-off story about a zombie outbreak in a small town in Northern California. But when I got to the end, it was painfully clear to me that Dave’s story wasn’t over. He had a lot more killing to do. So I started Book Two, Dead Is All You Get.

Now, everyone knows that you can’t have a series with just two books, so after finishing that one, I was compelled to start on Book Three. Don’t worry—there’s no Book Four planned! I think I did a pretty good job of wrapping things up with good ol’ Dave. Of course, the reader will be the ultimate judge. What to expect? Well, for one thing, the action has moved to Los Angeles. So get ready for some gritty, nail-biting thrills—the kind that seem to follow Dave like a rabid dog—in the land of ‘Sharknado’ and collagen-infused lips.

That’s enough for now. Stay tuned for more breaking news as it develops. And remember, monsters are real. Seriously, they’re real.

UNEXPECTED GIFTS—Falling Through Time in America

So, let me first say that I’m not really a fan of historical fiction. I’m more a horror-thriller kind of guy. That said, I had the pleasure of reading Unexpected Gifts and now have a new appreciation for this genre. The author has placed her protagonist Sonia in a contemporary setting, with all of the problems and pain of a nervous young woman trying to take control of her life. And things haven’t been going all that well. Doesn’t sound like the past, right? Well, here comes the “historical” part. Sonia is introduced to past generations of family and friends courtesy of letters that her mother shares with her over a series of days. These aren’t normal letters, mind you. They literally transport Sonia back to a time and place when these people were struggling with their own issues—many of which are tied to famous events. I thought this was a clever device that worked extremely well.

Unexpected Gifts is a book of longing, hope and wonder. Does Sonia ever reach that place of joy and contentment? You’ll have to read those letters to find out.

You can find this review at Amazon US.

Book Blurb

[Unexpected Gifts Cover]

Can we learn from our ancestral past? Do our relatives’ behaviors help mold our own? In Unexpected Gifts that is precisely what happens to Sonia, a confused college student, heading for addictions and forever choosing the wrong man. Searching for answers, she begins to read her family’s diaries and journals from America’s past: the Vietnam War, Woodstock, and Timothy Leary era; Tupperware parties, McCarthyism, and Black Power; the Great Depression, dance marathons, and Eleanor Roosevelt; the immigrant experience and the Suffragists. Back and forth the book journeys, linking yesteryear with modern life until finally, by understanding her ancestors’ hardships and faults, she gains enough clarity to make some right choices.

Where to Buy
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA

More Reviews
Did you enjoy this review? Check out my other Amazon reviews here.

FLIP SIDE—Gangsters, Ghosts and Magic!

[Simon Oneill]Simon Oneill is one of my favorite authors. I’ve been trying for years to figure out how his brain works. Forget it! His books are always fresh, funny and full of surprises.

So, I’m thrilled to let you know about his latest novel, Flip Side, which will be published later this month. Here’s the scoop …

Book Blurb

[Flip Side Cover]

Dead gangster returns to living world to correct his mistakes only to cause more problems for the ones he loves.

Johnny Knight is on top of his game as kingpin drug lord. His enemies are either dead or licking their wounds. Now tired of all the killing, he wants to live his dream in the Caribbean with his family.

Johnny’s dream turns to a nightmare when the ghost of his father appears, causing chaos and mayhem. His Old Man must correct a mistake he made and this means Johnny’s dream will never be fulfilled.

The ghost shows his son the error of his ways, making Johnny weak in the eyes of his enemies. Johnny’s empire crumbles around him. All he has is his dream.

Synopsis
This is ‘The Sopranos’ meets Scrooge meets ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ full of sex and violence and Jimmy the wise ghost who must do his best to set things right or return time and time again until his family’s problems are resolved. Only then can he be happy on the Flip Side.

Tough gangster Jimmy Knight is a ghost sent back to the living world to sort out his family problems that he left behind. These problems have festered in his soul making him unsuitable for the Flip Side where peaceful spirits can live out their dreams. The biggest soul crusher for Jimmy is getting revenge on the hitman that snuffed him out and to do this he must reveal himself to his youngest son, mob boss – Johnny. But there are certain rules to adhere to in the Flip Side. A ghost can enter a family member’s mind and use memories and words of wisdom to alter the course of their life or imminent death. But the closer that person gets to death the more visible the ghost becomes and when they can touch their beloved dead family member they are ready to flip.

Ten years ago, Jimmy is on his deathbed, a bloody bullet hole in his chest. Standing over him are his two sons, Johnny and Chalky. With his dying breath, Jimmy chooses his younger son, Johnny, the more stable, the man with the savvy. The look on Chalky’s face says it all – the drugs business was his to have as he is the oldest. Jimmy flipped, but his baggage was heavy not knowing who killed him, it gnawed at him not knowing. Now he has to return to his chosen offspring and fix the mess he has left behind.

Ten tough years later Johnny has stayed on top of his drugs empire. His enemies are either dead or licking their wounds and in no fit state to harm him. But of late, Johnny has been having strange dreams, annoying flashbacks to the days when Jimmy ruled the roost and even worse he has heard that haunting music more and more often – LA BAMBA – music played at his wedding! Chalky has been inside since their father’s wake, since he beat to death some geezer for not paying his respects to the old man’s remains. Chalky loves to use his hands, he’s a real genuine hands on kind of guy. Johnny accepts the Old Man’s intrusion in his head and shows signs of weakness when talking to himself. Jimmy uses La Bamba to warn Johnny of imminent death.

Chalky’s hatred of his brother sets in motion traumatic events as he does a Clint Eastwood on Johnny’s cool rat-pack gang and his most ruthless enemy – Rosa, Queen of the Ganja boss of The Yardies. The gangs go to war each side manipulated by Chalky’s devious tactics.

There are plenty of situations where Jimmy uses his music of chance and wise words to alter the inevitable course of Johnny’s life. He shows Johnny what might have been and also what could possibly be in the near future with swift acts of ghostly magic to prevent that bullet with Johnny’s name on it finding the target. But with each attack on Johnny’s life, Johnny gets closer to his father, seeing him, having a joke with him until finally touching him. Johnny learns what it is to be a loving father even when his love falls on hatred and vengeful family members.

Families are ripped apart by death and betrayal, plans within plans, greed and avarice fueling a war that can only end one way for Johnny, unless his old man’s magic can save him.

About the Author
Simon Oneill resides in South Wales UK with his wife Shirley Anne. He is a writer of all things paranormal fantasy in both the YA and Adult categories. He loves to collect fossils when not writing, and will often be found combing the local beach for fossils and shells. Or he can sometimes be found in a local pub enjoying a pint of real ale. You can find Simon on Twitter, on Facebook and at his Amazon author page.