The Savvy Author


Horror Stories-Women Write the Best!

Once upon a time in a literary setting long ago, an accomplished “lady novelist” searching for a change of venue from writing about “womanly” interests might have tried her hand in writing a neat, nothing messy, of course, who-done-it. It was unthinkable that the fairer-sex would ever have the unholy desire to create a horror story filled with blood, gore, and frightening characters. Even the clever Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, whose mind created one of the best psychologically frightening horror novels ever to be printed, was not taken too seriously as in, “This cannot possibly have been written by a woman!”

In fact, Frankenstein was published anonymously in 1818, and readers and critics alike argued over its origins many attributing the dark work to her husband poet Percy Bysshe Shelly. But the work was all Mary’s own, taken from her imagination and, as she told it to her friends, “the grim terrors of a waking dream from a sleepless night.”

While horror might seem as if it’s the sole purview of the male writer there are plenty of female authors who know exactly how to terrify their readers in a well-written horror novel. Indeed some of the best horror fiction comes from the minds and vivid imaginations of women. Think of Anne Rice and Shirley Jackson; their work can strike terror into our hearts.

There has always been a misconception about how authors of certain genres should look. Romance? Sweet, pretty, and passionate about falling in love. Erotica? Sexy, eyes filled with hot sexual passion, and slightly devilish. Horror? Grim, dangerous, attractive but scary.

But most writers often look nothing like the stereotype of their work. Romance and erotica authors are more likely to look like your average grocery store shopper than the image their work puts into our minds and writers who create good horror stories, especially women, can look like the cute grown-up girl next door. Their appearance belies the genius of their excellent work.

One such genius at creating a solid and satisfying horror story is a pretty redhead named Jeani Rector and she was gracious enough to carve out time in her hectic schedule to allow me to interview her.
A woman with a passion for gardening, Jeani is a master at writing novels and short stories guaranteed to give a delightful fright to her readers. She is also owner and editor of the popular online and print magazine The Horror Zine. She’s been hooked on horror since the age of ten when, sleeping over a friend’s house on Saturday nights, and while her friend fell asleep, Jeani would stay up to watch a show called the Bob Wilkins Creature Feature at eleven at night. In her teens she began reading books and stories by Stephen King.

Her interest in horror became a passion. Additional influences included books by Susie Moloney, Joe R. Lansdale, Elizabeth Massie and “anything by Bentley Little.”

Jeani began having her short stories published in online horror magazines and all went well until 2009 when all the ezines seemed to fold due to the recession. Undeterred by this Jeani decided to step into the void and create her own online magazine; The Horror Zine was born. An interesting note is that she named the ezine The Horror Zine simply because, as she says, “They included key words that people might randomly Google and stumble across; the, horror, and zine.” Little did she know the enormous success her ezine would become.

Like most writers Jeani had a “day job” and, like most writers who are itching to do nothing more than write, she hated it. For twenty-five years she was a professional Research and Budget Analyst for a large government department. Readers are grateful that she did leave. Completely devoted to her endeavor, she gets up at five AM every morning to write, edit, and create The Horror Zine.

Besides devoting her time as editor and writer for her ezine, Jeani is also a popular author having penned two novels, Pestilence-A Medieval Tale of Plague and Accused-A Tale of the Salem Witch Trials plus a “best-of” Jeani Rector book of short horror stories.

While it used to be be rare that female authors would make a career of only writing horror novels, Jeani Rector has proven that is no longer the case. Her work is definitely on-par with the best in the genre male and female alike. Be prepared to be wonderfully scared!

Happy writing!

Read Kristen Houghton’s own ebook of horror shorts Stolen Property available at all book venues

Copyright 2016 Kristen Houghton The Savvy Author all rights reserved



Is Your Book 'Movie-Worthy?'

Do you ever dream of one day seeing the fictional characters you created being portrayed by real actors on TV or the movie screen? Think it’s only a daydream or wishful thinking? Is it possible that it will ever happen? It can, and does, happen. All it takes one good break, one chance that your story or book gets noticed by the right person and your short story ends up as a full-length movie.

Mary Orr, Cornell Woolrich, and Hagar Wilde are not exactly household names on their own yet their short stories were made into critically-acclaimed movies that we all have seen or at the very least know. Some of these movies have become classics.

Mary Orr was an American actor and author. Her short story, “The Wisdom of Eve” was published in a 1946 issue of Cosmopolitan Magazine. Her short story was loosely based on the rumored rivalry between actors Tallulah Bankhead and Lizbeth Scott.

Scott was Bankhead’s understudy during the Broadway production of Thorton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth and legend had it that Bankhead was being victimized by Scott, who Orr used as the basis for the character of Eve Harrington. In 1950 “The Wisdom of Eve” became the solid basis for the Academy-award winning movie, All About Eve.

Worried that your work may not be “good enough?” Believe it when I say that your short story doesn’t even have to be the very best you’ve ever done. Rear Window is a brilliant 1954 Alfred Hitchcock mystery thriller based on a 1942 short story, “It Had to Be Murder” penned by an author named Cornell Woolrich. Some book critics have stated that “It Had to be Murder” wasn’t Woolrich’s best work as a short story writer but it obviously had that certain something that made buying the production rights from him and turning it into a movie classic worthwhile.

The same can be said for the short story “Eisenheim the Illusionist” by Steven Millhauser. Hidden in Millhauser’s book of shorts, The Barnum Museum, it was almost overlooked until director Neil Burger read it, liked it, and successfully turned it into the film, The Illusionist.

A short story by Hagar Wilde, published in Collier’s Weekly in 1937 gave us the wonderful movie Bringing Up Baby. To the delight of Hagar Wilde, the producers of the movie agreed to keep the original title of the story that the readers of Collier’s Weekly had so enjoyed.

“Brokeback Mountain” is a short story by acclaimed writer Annie Proulx which appeared in The New Yorker in 1997. A controversial love story, the short piece was later made into a film in 2005 and has become a backburner classic.

Novellas, quick reads a bit longer than a short story, have also been made into films. A Christmas Carol may have only taken Charles Dickens a month to write but it has become immortal. However, without Dickens’s determination to see it published, we may never have gotten to enjoy this incredible work on the screen. When it was turned down by magazines and publishing houses, he decided to go it alone managing the editing, printing, and marketing all by himself.

You never know who is reading your stories and books when or where. It pays to make yourself available. Opportunity comes to those who are prepared for it. Keep your website updated with important contact information so that you can be reached easily. Have three contact people on your site; your agent, your publisher, and you, available via email and phone numbers.

The possibility of having your work, short story, novella, or novel made into a movie are very real. Keep publicizing yourself as an author and get the word out about your writing. You never know who may be interested in what you’ve got to offer.

Happy writing!

Grave Misgivings, book 2 in the popular Cate Harlow Private Investigation series is now available where all books are sold.
Copyright 2015 Kristen Houghton The Savvy Author all rights reserved


Join best-selling author Kristen Houghton for a book signing and author talk

Come join me!

Saturday, June 11, 2016 at 2:00 pm

Barnes and Noble

Riverside Mall, Hackensack, NJ

Book signing and author Q. & A. 


Writers Need An 'Outside' Life Too!

If you’re in the field of writing the changes are good that you tend to face more rejection and less acceptance than those in any other profession. No other group of people face criticism and rejection as often as we do. Truthfully, though we may rant and rave, we have no choice but to accept it; it is after all part of the “game of publishing.”

Quitting this artistic profession we have chosen is not an option. Writers write because there is something inside us that drives us to create stories, write articles, and put ourselves out there for others to see, possibly reject, and comment negatively on our work. It is almost masochistic! How many rejections can you take before you quit? The answer is we’ll take them all and we will never quit.

A writer’s life is not without its occupational hazards. Writing can become all-consuming even though no author is the same when it comes to their own schedule of writing. Some write four to five hours a day straight through, some as much as eight. Some break up the hours; Dan Brown once said in an interview that after two hours of intense writing he would get up and use the vertical machine in his office to clear his head and get his body moving.

Then there are the writers who closet themselves in their writing areas almost 18 hours a day and rarely emerge outside of a quick bathroom run! Truthfully I did this with my first book, And Then I’ll Be Happy! I basically had no social life and my husband told me at one point that he saw me so little that my face was becoming just a blurred memory. But I didn’t care; I was on a creative roll and I had to get that book written! Now I write for two to three hours a day, more if I have a major deadline, but it is never an all-day marathon, not any more.

While it is fairly accurate that writers are misunderstood in general, (we’re artists!); not many people can, or want, to do what we do. The process of writing changes the way we look at the world, we see what others don’t and that often sets us apart. But the truth is that, being consumed by the writing muse can be detrimental to your writing.

Does that sound crazy? How can doing nothing but write hurt our writing? It can and it does.
Mental fatigue is one way that ruins an author’s creativity. Anyone who has had the exhausting experience of all-night cramming sessions for college exams knows all too well about mental fatigue. It has been shown to reduce the creative spark rather than enhance it. Then too there is the very real danger of depression; being alone all the time with very little outside contact can lead to this potentially dangerous evil in a writer’s life.

You need to have an outside life away from the writing one and surprisingly the two “lives” can not only co-exist very nicely but your “outside life” can be beneficial to your creative life by refreshing your thought processes. Too much alone time can lead to the dreaded writer’s block.

Getting off your computer, up from your chair, and out into the world is a bit scary because you’re “leaving work undone,” I agree but it is necessary for your metal and physical health. Just going for a walk, calling, not texting or emailing, a friend or family member to make a human connection is a productive time away from your computer.

And, if you’re like most writers, your author’s subconscious is creating and storing new ideas that will benefit your writing. Socializing by going out to dinner, a movie, or a museum are great places to observe people and settings for character development and story lines.Taking an exercise class, or seeing a film, is not wasted time. Besides refreshing you it will lead to some heretofore untried writing experiences.

As writers we will always be thinking about our characters, the current and next stories, the articles begging to be written, and the deadlines we face. Taking some time to live your “outside life” will make you a refreshed, relaxed person who faces the profession of writing with new eyes and a healthy perspective. Combining our creative and outside lives make us winners.

Happy writing!


Cozy Mysteries Rule

What's the difference between a mystery and a cozy mystery? Well...,the characters, more romance than sex, and a nice clean ending.

Those who commit murder in cozies are almost always rational, well-spoken, intelligent people. The crimes they commit, even murder, tend to be bloodless. If there is blood, there is no in-depth, stomach-churning description--just a few simple sentences, such as, "She found the victim with a screwdriver plunged through his heart. There was no sign of a struggle."  says it all.
There's also not a lot of sex in cozies. Sexual tension and flirting to be sure, but nothing overt. The protagonist, usually a woman, is educated and has a real job. She may be a professional private investigator or an amateur one. She does have romantic encounters, but sex scenes are kept pretty much behind closed doors.

Romance, however, is a key element. Even the greatest cozy mystery writer of all time, Agatha Christie, once made the statement that her books sold better if she threw in a little romance--"not much, just a little." Besides being an incredible writer, Ms. Christie was very astute in the marketing of her books. Romance adds a nice touch to a cozy mystery

I have loved mysteries since I was a child, and so it wasn't surprising that I became an author who writes them. As a crime/mystery author, I do as others before me have done. Deleted the old adage taught in creative writing classes that says you should write what you know and began to write the kind of book I enjoy reading myself.

The crime, the motive, the clues, and solving the case are what motivate the cozy crime writer. I love it all, and that's why I write them. I created the character of PI Cate Harlow in the A Cate Harlow Private Investigation series and live vicariously through her adventures.

Cozy mystery thrillers, (despite the description of "cozy," they are still thrillers), have a history that dates back to a story in the Arabian Nights titled "The Three Apples." The story describes the clues and details surrounding the discovery of a female body found inside a chest in the river Tigris and how the real murderer is finally brought to justice. An ancient, but cozy, mystery.

Have you ever wondered what goes on in the mind of the person who writes such stories? A lot of readers do.The mind of the mystery writer is surprisingly not all that mysterious, we just see everyday occurrences in a different light. We deal in the real possibility of crime. The reader knows that the crime the author is describing could possibly happen to anyone, even them. There's that thrill of fear and a distinct desire to have the crime solved. Cozies do that nicely.

At book readings  readers like to ask what goes on in the author's mind when writing about murder mysteries; basically, what makes authors of mystery novels tick?

I know that they eagerly want to hear that we're slightly skewed to the crazy side to be able to write mystery thrillers with such conviction, but I have to disappoint them. Except for being passionate about writing, we're normal,or as normal as anyone who spends hours every day alone with the imaginary characters in her head can be. I mean, there's a long line of mystery/crime writers who really were kind of crazy!

Finding ideas for a cozy mystery is easy. Just listen to the news on while you're drinking your morning coffee and getting ready for work. Kidnapings, murder for hire, abductions; it's a scary world out there, and even more so because it's real and possible.The cozy mystery author takes these ideas and creates a safer haven for the actual story, cutting out the gore and horror and making sure that the crime always gets solved.

The criminal element in society makes for great writing fodder. The fact that most novels have an ending where the crime is solved and some type of justice will prevail gives the writer "author satisfaction." It's the cozy author's special world and the writer likes to, and does, tie up all loose ends. Maybe there's more than a little bit of big ego involved in a mystery writer's mind because, unlike real life, they're in control of events.

The popularity of the cozy mystery continues to soar, and readers of them particularly like the cozies to be in series form. It's like having a night out with a funny, smart, good friend who just happens to solve murders. As a writer, you may want to give it a try.

Happy writing!