Tag Archives: creativity

Where Did You Come Up With That?


Spooky dark forestPeople always tell young authors, “Write what you know.”

How does that work if I’m writing about a serial killer?  Or writing about domestic violence?  Or writing about sexual perversions?  Or writing any excellent, creepy, messed-up-in-the-head villain?  Does writing those types of genres or characters mean that I, as the author, must also be evil, creepy, or otherwise messed up in the head?

Many people seem to think so when they ask, “Where do you come up with this stuff?”  Sometimes they say it in a tone of awe, but more often they whisper it in a fear-laced voice while nervously shuffling farther away.

Horror stories are popular, and the best bad guys are the complex, creepy ones that make you shudder to read about or view on the big screen.  Does that mean Mary Shelley was really a mad scientist so that she could invent Frankenstein?  Or that Thomas Harris, the writer of The Silence of the Lambs, was a psycho killer?

Of course not.

That’s like asking, was Steven Spielberg really an alien, or George Lucas a Jedi Knight?  As much as we want to believe they might be, of course they’re not.

So how can you write what you know and at the same time write something there’s no way you could know?

That’s where the artwork and the imagination come in, where the mastery of craft and vision meld with experience.

To write great horror, an author needs to understand what scares people.  We’ve all felt fear.  A good author knows how to trigger that fear, make the reader feel like they’re in the dark woods with the hero, smelling the scent of decaying leaves crackling underfoot, hear the soft moaning of the wind clacking dead branches together overhead, sense movement in the shadows nearby, and feel absolutely sure that something is out there . . . watching.

If they can do that, they can write good horror.  Or fantasy.  Or whatever other genre they decide to pursue.  Because writing draws from the human condition, and that is something writers need to know.  Coupling that understanding with a powerful imagination and a willingness to step into the shadows of the mind to give life to a truly creepy villain is what produces memorable moments in fiction.

Is it a challenge as a writer to consider evil and not be tainted by it?  Perhaps.  But it’s not really different from the challenge faced by actors who portray villains or other deviant behavior.  They have to act out the evil deeds.  Writers need to talk about it, delve into the mind, try to imagine what might motivate a ‘bad’ person to do what they do.  In both cases, the actor or author who is well grounded in their own life need not worry about getting sucked into the darkness they’re exploring for their fans.

Those cases where they do slide into darkness are usually caused because they lack that grounding, that strong sense of self.  It’s seen most often among popular child actors who haven’t had a chance to discover who they are before being forced to pretend to be someone else.  That’s got to be tough, and I think that’s why a lot of child actors have so much trouble as they get older.

Most authors begin really writing as adults, and we usually need other careers to support us for the difficult first years as we perfect our craft and develop the skills to break out as a writer.  That time and experience helps ground us.

Mysterious door

So study the human condition, explore the boundaries of your imagination, and know your own heart so you can always find your way back home.

Then when someone asks you, “How can you write such evil people so well?”

You can give them a slow smile and shrug.  “I write what I know.”

About the Author: Frank Morin

Author Frank MorinFrank Morin loves good stories in every form.  When not writing or trying to keep up with his active family, he’s often found hiking, camping, Scuba diving, or enjoying other outdoor activities.  For updates on upcoming releases of his popular Petralist YA fantasy novels, or his fast-paced Facetakers alternate history fantasy series, check his website:  www.frankmorin.org

Turning Point – Where I Found my Confidence to Write

Where did you learn to write? Where do your story ideas come from?

These are the two questions I get asked most often. And when I tell people where I learned and how that learning now gives me my ideas, they most often shake their heads and say, “Really?”

I always loved stories and the power of words to whisk me away to other realms and realities. I wanted to write them, to tell them but I felt too shy, too awkward, too inadequate, and too intimidated. To overcome this, I took a university degree in English, and instead of feeling my confidence soar, I was devastated. How could I, a lowly kid from the farm, ever be as perfect, so lauded, or garner so much depth and awesomeness in words? The bar was set high and everything I learned taking that degree didn’t set my creativity free – it only intimidated it.

Oh, I still dabbled with ideas but achieved nothing of substance. I just didn’t know how to make it work. The answer, oddly enough, was found by going back to University, but not in English Literature classes.

My great revelation came when I studied Food Science at the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Agriculture. That meant I had to take a variety of classes including Agricultural Economics. I worked for a while in that department because I had a gift for understanding and telling the stories found in numbers. That was second nature to me, but still, that wasn’t where I learned to write fiction.

My fiction writing emerged from studying chemistry and microbiology. In microbiology, I had to observe and explain worlds – what creatures they were composed of, how they came to be, what their effects were on the systems they were found in and so on. In chemistry, I had to explain cause and effect, or stated in writing terms, to observe, document, explain the characters’ (substances and elements) actions, reactions, and the consequences of those actions and reactions. Both courses taught me to be an astute observer, to document, to ask the what-ifs, to understand and explore their worlds.

The formulas for writing and working in a scientific environment are all the same – observe, document, ask the what-ifs, hypothesize, understand and explore.

So hail to economics, microbiology, chemistry, and physics too! They’ve kept me in good stead because now I see the stories in the world around me. For example, I’ve found them in a creek near my house, looking out an airplane window and seeing the Canadian Shield below me, visiting henges in England, on a Moroccan shoreline, in ancient digs in Crete, on an island, in my back yard and in all the people I’d like to know about.

Now I explore the rich world of what-if around me. It bursts with ideas and possibilities and my writing life abounds with stories yet untold. I may never be as perfect as the masters who had once so intimidated me, but I don’t care. All I care about is the world I know and explore and I revel in the joy of sharing it. My world now is filled with What-If?, How Come?, and Why Not? – aren’t those the questions children so often ask? That sounds like another story, for another time…

Happy writing!

Making a Multi-Use Banner

A guest post by Tim Reynolds.

Most writers I know are on a limited budget for advertising and promotion, especially the self-published ones. Even the writers with traditional publishers may have to foot the bill for some or all promotional supplies.

I, myself, am both self-published (4 books) and traditionally published. When I’ve done book signings in the past I had some nicely done 8×10 covers in frames on the table, with teasers about the book and even reviews. It looked well and good and…cheesy. At multiple-author events, the authors who got the most attention (and often the most sales) had a LARGE presence in the form of a banner.

Banners are great for signings, readings, and trade shows. The problem is that many authors have multiple books they need to promote, though seldom all at the same time. They might have a signing for their YA novel tomorrow, then a reading for their sci-fi opus on Sunday, and have a table set up at World Fantasy Convention next week. You want your banner to promote your product, but that’s three products, which makes for three banners. Banners aren’t cheap. The stands can be reused, but a banner for each book gets prohibitively expensive.

My solution? An adaptable, multi-use banner.

STEP ONE: Design a banner that covers as many of your bases as possible, without using any specific titles. This is the hardest step. Many of you will want to get your banner professionally designed. I have a background in graphics, so I did my own.

Tim Banner
My author banner. 30″ x 72″

Here’s mine. It’s 30″ x 72″. I’ve cropped off the bottom because it’s not important right now. If you can’t read what it says, here it is:

“Timothy Reynolds. Spinner of Tales, Fabricator of Fictions, Twister of History. ‘Canada’s Modern-Day Aesop’ ~ Barbara Budd, CBC Radio.

That’s my namea catchy/cute way of saying what I do, and the best promo quote I have. It also has my author photo, a moon with a bloody screaming face, and a generic city scape at night…to add atmosphere. Much of what I write has a dark element to it, so this is not a light and fluffy smiles-and-puppies banner.

There’s no publisher name at all. Not even my own company. Why? Because if I put Cometcatcher Press on it, then I can’t use it when I’m promoting “When Anastasia Laughs”, which will be published by Tyche Books in 2016, or “Tesseracts Seventeen” from Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing, which contains my short story “Why Pete?”.

Tim Foamcoare
Covers as photographs, mounted on foam core and laminated

STEP TWO: Have your cover(s) reproduced as photographs, mounted on foam core and laminated for protection. Almost every film lab can do this for you. I use Western Canada’s best: London Drugs.

I had all four covers done as 5x7s. Why? Because 5x7s are lighter than 8x10s and will remain in place better.

Magnetic Tape
Magnetic Tape

STEP THREE: You will need magnetic tape. It’s available at Michael’s Arts & Crafts and 10′ costs less than $5. Cuttwo 5″ strips for each cover. Because the strips will maintain their shape from when they were on the roll, take the strips and place them on a flat surface, under a heavy weight, overnight. Once they are flat, they are ready to use.

Cover and magnets
A cover and the magnetic Strips

STEP FOUR: Working on a clean surface, place a cover face down. Peel the backing off of the magnetic tape, and place two strips firmly on the back of the cover, centred left-to-right and down a bit from the top.

Peeling magnet paper
Peeling magnet paper off

Place the magnetic tape on the back of the cover. Press firmly.

Magnet back of cover
Place the magnetic tape on the back of the cover. Press firmly.

STEP FIVE: While the banner is hanging, place the cover where you want it to be, then place the second magnetic strip on the back of the banner, directly opposite the strip on the cover.

Back of banner
Magnetic strips in place on the back of the banner, holding the cover in place.

When it’s all done, you have a banner with one (or in this case, two) covers on display. You can do the same with the publisher’s logo and even a sign with the times you will be present. Other possibilities include: “Coming Soon”, “New York Times Bestseller”, or whatever your heart desires. Reviews, quotes, anything. All I suggest is to not overload the banner.

Covers on Banner
Two light-weight but sturdy covers magnetically attached to a banner.

The foam core is very light weight, as is the magnetic tape. I had considered using adhesive Velcro, but then the banner couldn’t be rolled up smoothly. This method with the magnets allows complete removal of the artwork and for the banner to be rolled and stored indefinitely without damage being done to its surface or shape. For a stronger attachment, put magnetic tape near the bottom of the cover as well.

(NOTE: I’m still not sold on the white borders I put on the covers, but with a sharp blade I can remove them easily.)

STEP SIX: Get yourself a 6×8 Rubbermaid lunch box for storing the covers, a hard plastic tube for the banner, and you’re all set for your next signing.

MATERIALS: Magnetic Tape: $5. Banner on heavy outdoor vinyl: $63 &Stand (includes carrying bag): $40 (both from Vistaprint), Plastic banner tube $21 from a local Digital Post store. BTW, VistaPrint is always having sales, so set up an account, do the design work, and wait. They will send you an email shortly with the latest sale. You can save anywhere from $10 to 33% of your entire order. Their online design & preview kicks ass, too.

Note: in some of the photos above you can see what look like creases on the banner. It was damaged in shipping. I called VistaPrint and explained the situation. Without seeing photos or getting witness statements, they immediately ordered a new one and it was shipped out the next day. It arrived in three days. Their customer service is second-to-none.

I hope this gives you some ideas and inspires you to get out there and promote your writing with a professional presence. Other things to help are bookmarks with the cover, where to buy it, and your website URL. If you don’t have your own website…GET ONE!

That’s it, that’s all.

Ciao for now,


Tim ReynoldsTim Reynolds is a Canadian ‘Twistorian’, bending and twisting history into fictional shapes for fun & entertainment.

His debut novel, the urban fantasy, The Broken Shield, was released on July 21, 2014 on Amazon as a digital book and in March 2015 in paperback form. It covers over 2000 years of history and shows that even Lucifer knows “there’s an app for that”. His published short stories range from lighthearted fantasy to turn-on-the-damned-lights-now horror. His 100-word story “Temper Temper” was a winner of Kobo Writing Life’s Jeffrey Archer Short Story Challenge. In 2016 watch for his novel “When Anastasia Laughs” from Tyche Books.

He can be found online at www.tgmreynolds.com or @TGMReynolds on Twitter.

Haunted Hospital

A guest post by Paul Genesse.

Haunted hospital

I worked the night shift in a haunted hospital for ten years. The building was over a hundred years old and thousands of people had died there. I’m not going to mention the name of the facility, but it’s a famous hospital in Utah, where I started working in the late 90’s.

I ended up on a cardiac floor where people didn’t die that often, but we had the most code blues of any other non-intensive care unit in the whole facility. People with heart conditions are on the brink of death and their hearts often give out suddenly.

We nurses were always on edge, and whenever a patient said, “I’m going to die tonight,” we would always reassure them in their room, but when we left we would freak out and go and tell someone immediately. Very often, when the patient made that ominous prediction, they were right. A few hours later, they would die. It was super creepy.

I had several personal experiences with the supernatural while working there, and I collected a lot of the stories from that hospital over the years. One of strangest involved a close friend of mine, Nick (not his real name) with whom I worked with for many years. Nick was working the night shift when a doctor in a long white coat walked down the hallway toward a dead end section of rooms with no exit. My friend was sitting down and was nearly half-asleep and thought it was odd to see an MD coming at that time of night, around 3:00 AM, to see a patient.

A few minutes after the doctor walked by, a call light went off in that section. Nick answered the call by going to the room immediately. The patient was wide awake, with all his lights on. Moments before the patient had been in a deep sleep. Nick asked, “Do you need some help?” The patient was excited and said, “My brother just came to visit me.”

There was no sign of the brother in the room. Nick was confused, as he did not see anyone leave the area. The brother was not in the bathroom or in the other three rooms in that section. There was no way he could have left without Nick seeing him.

Nick said something like, “Where is he now?” The patient had a stunned expression on his face and said, “My brother has been dead for seven years!”

The brother had died in the same hospital, but on a different floor. Nick asked about the conversation they had. The dead brother told his younger sibling that he should not worry, and that he was going to survive this illness.

The patient went home a few days later.

This even really happened. The man lived through his health scare and went home.

Nick was a skeptic about ghosts until this event, but not any more.

I could go on about ghost stories in this hospital, and I’ll tell a few more.

A friend of mine, Emily (not her real name) was working in an ICU at this hospital and witnessed haunting activity in a specific room soon after a particularly nasty and disoriented male patient had died. The ghost would touch staff, creep them out with an ominous presence, and scare the current patients staying in that room—who would ask who the tall man was. Emily would ask for someone to go in with her after some frightening experiences. That’s how scared she was.

Once, this nasty ghost was seen manifesting as a full-bodied apparition in the doorway of the room where he died. This event freaked out a different nurse really badly. As far as I know, this was the first time anyone had seen the ghost as a full-bodied apparition, but the strangest thing about this was that the spirit had a breathing tube (an endotracheal tube) dangling from his mouth. He seemed to be choking and reaching out for help as he stood in the doorway. The man was very tall and big, so he was quite intimidating.


Emily quit her job and transferred to a different hospital. She could not face the haunting activity any longer.

I could go on as I have a stack of stories about supernatural events, including poltergeist activity, disembodied voices, apparitions, and more.

I’m so glad I don’t work at that hospital anymore. Whenever I walked into that place, dark and troubling energies would hit me. I had to learn how to block them out. To this day there are reports of supernatural events there, especially on certain floors that are now abandoned. The security guards who patrol the place have seen and heard all sorts of disturbing things—people calling for help when no one is there, and they see shadows moving in abandoned patient rooms. TV’s and call lights go on randomly in vacant rooms all the time.

Healthcare workers are pretty tough people overall, but just walking down to the cafeteria in the middle of the night was frightening for some of my friends. Those dark hallways filled with shadows and that odd vibe was especially disturbing for the more sensitive staff.

Some people are skeptical about ghosts and the supernatural. I think that’s fine and very reasonable. Not believing in the paranormal is a great defense mechanism. You don’t see things when the more sensitive people do. Personally, it’s worked for me in the past. I’d much rather not see scary things, even though, at the edge of my peripheral vision, I know they’re there.

Paul GenesseGuest Writer Bio:   Paul Genesse is the author of The Golden Cord, The Dragon Hunters, and The Secret Empire, the first three books in his Iron Dragon Series. He has sold several short stories—many of which involve ghosts—which appear in various DAW anthologies, and elsewhere. He’s been on a few paranormal investigations and may have once encountered a demon—which turned out to be research, as he’s the editor of the five volumes in the demon-themed Crimson Pact shared multiverse anthology series. He works full time as a cardiac nurse, but has worked as a copy editor, computer game consultant, and naturally he enjoys speaking about writing at conventions, and doing school visits. Friend him on Facebook or find him online at paulgenesse.com.