Thursday, March 28, 2019

Jumping From Hearts to Horror

After many years of writing romance, I am now in the midst of creating a horror novella.

Is this a weird switch?

It might seem that way. Jumping from hearts and happy-ever-afters to horrifying creatures, death, and destruction, might make some folks scratch their heads and say, "What the hell?"

But for me, it's not that odd. I have always enjoyed a weird--dare I say quirky--bunch of interests. 

Botany, horror movies, puppies, science, art, comedy, nature, sci-fi, and the list goes on. Some of the things are cute and cuddly, and some of the things involve exploding zombie heads.

You get my drift.

My love affair with horror has been going on since childhood. Started with JAWS and Stephen King, and it just kept growing. I especially love sci-fi-horror (ALIENS is a favorite) and horror/comedy (think SHAUN OF THE DEAD).

Anyhow, I am finding the switch from Hearts to Horror wonderfully challenging as a writer.

Stuff you need to think about with romance...

1. Main purpose is creating a satisfying romance/love story. May include sex or not.

2. Character-driven stories are best. Readers will forgive a story that really has no plot if the characters are fabulous, but they will not forgive a plot-driven novel with flat/underdeveloped characters. Characters make the romance.

3. The relationship between hero/heroine drives the book. Pulling them apart, pushing them back together. This guides the story.

4. Book must end with satisfying resolution to relationship conflict, and a HEA (happy ever after). Happy ending, for those of you not up on the romance lingo.

5. Characters need to be likable or at least redeemable by the end. 

Different things to accomplish with a horror story...

1. Book can be character-driven or plot-driven, or some combination of both. I personally believe creating very strong, well-developed characters strengthens your story no matter what genre you are writing.

2. Need some mystery, unknown, question mark. In other words, WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?

3. Suspense is critical. Author has to build suspense over the course of the book. Can be a slow build-up, or come in fits-and-starts. Whatever. Must be there.

4. Horror is critical. Can be subtle, or bash-you-over-the-head shocking.

5. Ending does not necessarily need a well-defined resolution. Could be vague, open-ended. Could be all wrapped up. Might be shocking. No matter what, the novel still needs to be engaging and satisfying as a horror story. 

My favorite part of switching from romance to horror, as I discussed in this blog post, is the freedom to create warty characters. They don't need to be perfect. They can be cruel and vindictive and really awful people. And let's face it, after years of creating "nice guys" it's pretty fun to make a warty character pop off the page.

I have always loved creating an alternate, paranormal universe (see my Klaus Brothers Series). It's so much fun to stretch your imagination and creativity with other worlds. With horror, I can continue to do this, just with more gruesome outcomes. *insert evil laugh*

Will I ever write love stories again? Sure. I have a lot of up-coming options on my current "writing menu" including YA fantasy, paranormal fiction, love stories, etc.

But for now I am digging into a bit of the macabre. Maybe it's a better fit for my current emotional state? Or the state of the world? Or maybe I just love Halloween? Whatever the reason, LITTLE SHADOW MAN is floating my horror boat right now.

For a sneak peek of LITTLE SHADOW MAN, check out this post.

Happy and Horrible Writing to all!


Wednesday, March 6, 2019


Introducing a new event...


How do you feel about aging?

Are you celebrating your maturity, growth, wisdom?

Are you struggling? With menopause, aging parents, empty nest syndrome, reinvention?

How do you feel about yourself? Beautiful, strong? Vulnerable? Anxious?

Who are role models for women aging gracefully? Who are fierce and inspiring?

How do others treat you as you age? Are you invisible?

Are your goals, talents changing? How do you feel about this?

Do you welcome the next phase of your life, or are you pining for lost years?

There are so many wonderful facets to explore about women and aging. The good, the bad, the difficult, and perhaps some unexpected and marvelous things as well.

Ideas for submissions:

✵ Poetry
✵ Art
✵ Photos
✵ Short Fiction
✵ Articles about films, books, art, etc.
Reviews for books, movies, apps, etc.
Interview friends
Articles about health
✵ Anything goes! 

Think outside of the box and be creative.

I've been percolating about ideas for this event (on-line, via websites/social media, etc).

Some options:

One-day celebration with multiple posts. The posts could be collected on one website, or we could cross-post on multiple websites all day long. I would have a master list here with links.

We could also do a week-long celebration, depending on number of submissions.

Each post will be followed by a short bio and professional links, so contributors can promote themselves as well as celebrate women who shine.


Penny Watson

Please use the heading SUBMISSION SHINE

Deadline for submissions: April 17

Please leave any questions/suggestions in the comments section, or feel free to email me at the above address with the heading SUBMISSION SHINE.

See more information and links here.

Let's do this!


Tuesday, March 5, 2019

waiting to breathe

Title for the poem...waiting to breathe.

Also...what you write the day after a 2-foot snowfall in March.



Friday, March 1, 2019

At-Home Retreat: Will It Work?

Recently I saw an ad for a long-term weight loss retreat. It was ridiculously expensive and luxurious and not really intended for normal people.

However, it got me to thinking...

1. Wow, would I love to do a 6-month weight loss retreat (emphasis on mindfulness and wellness and healthy food and hiking in the forest).

2. Wow, would I love to do a 1-month/2-week/hell, even a one-week retreat.

This would be a great way to soothe my soul and jump-start my weight loss at the same time.

Then I started researching the weight loss retreats and I saw the price tag.


Also, I still have a teenage daughter at home to care for, as well as a dog, husband, etc.

I can't just run away from home. *shifty eyes*

This got me to more thinking...

Why can't I do an at-home retreat? Is this a thing?

I researched this, and discovered...Yes, this is a thing.

I read a bunch of articles discussing the concept for a staycation or at-home retreat. They touched on many aspects, including diet, exercise, good mental health. Some were appealing to me, some not.

I decided to custom design my own AT-HOME RETREAT. This is essentially to jump-start my weight loss, incorporate good habits into my daily and weekly schedule, and emphasize mindfulness and wellness in my life.

Here are the things I'm including...


1. The articles suggested trying a new fitness class. I like this idea. My daily exercise is copious walks--both inside (winter) and outside as weather permits. I've gotten into a rut with this. Same thing every day. 

However, I don't belong to a gym. So I decided to stream some yoga videos to mix it up.

Maybe some other types of stretching/strengthening videos, too.

If any of you have favorites--on Youtube, or Amazon, or wherever--please leave a comment with your recommendations and links! Thank you.

2. I do the same walk every day, loops in my neighborhood. I decided that one easy change I can make is to vary my walks. Add more hills, go to new places--in my own town, and to other locations. As the weather gets better, this will be much easier. I can head off to nature preserves and do hikes in the woods.

Right now I'll do the best I can in my local area.

Flexibility for this: If the weather is bad/icy and I have to walk inside, I am going to add more stretching/strengthening exercises to my routine.

3. Diet: this is the big one. At a retreat, they offer perfectly balanced meals that taste delicious.

How I can recreate this at home when I have to cook for me, my teenage daughter, and my carnivorous husband?

I'm going to design a retreat diet for ME and implement it. This will take time, but I'll plan over the weekend and start on Monday morning. This plan will include breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, all keeping the carb count down (I'm trying to reverse my diabetes diagnosis). 

I'm going to write out my menu in fancy font, print it, tape it up in the kitchen. Hee hee!

I'm also going to try some new recipes, but not too many. I'll keep most meals simple--salads and fresh fruit. If I try too many crazy things I'm afraid I won't be able to stick to my plan.

And of course, I have to cook for my daughter and hubby at the same time, but they will have a different menu. No fancy font!

4. Another sweet suggestion in one of the articles was to host a party. It made a point of saying that adding positive social events into your life was a great step towards happiness. I agree. I LOVE this idea!

So, at some point I am going to invite some friends over for a healthy evening of good food, good wine, and a relaxing time just hanging out. Maybe we'll do a potluck where everyone brings a favorite healthy dish and recipe printed up.

5. A big part of the retreats is pampering a spa or pool or beauty treatments. I'm not really into that stuff to be honest. However, I like the idea of making an effort to schedule some appointments for myself. 

I'm going to attempt to squeeze in a hair appointment, a nail appointment, and maybe even a pedicure. That's as far as I'm willing to go with the beauty biz, but it's a start.

6. Another big tip on all of the lists: TURN OFF YOUR SCREEN. Totally agree with this. It makes your anxiety go way down, and helps you with mindfulness. 

Since I read on my phone, I will prepare for this by getting some print books in advance for reading material. Then, I'll try to block out Internet access for at least a day (baby steps), and see how that goes.

I have a feeling this will be incredibly liberating and good for my soul!

7. If this was happening in the spring/summer instead of winter, I would also add this bit of advice: do outdoor activities! Like biking, kayaking, hiking. Unfortunately, we're in the midst of our hideous New England winter right now.

Here is my winter INDOOR activities that are fun, entertaining, and include walking around. I'm pushing for a trip to the MFA, maybe the Gardner Museum, and a visit to the Boston Flower Show. When the kids are home from school we'll head down to Mystic, CT to tour the aquarium. If the weather is okay, we'll also add on a day in Newport, RI and hike around Sachuest Point in Middletown.


That's it. I'm working on new exercises, a strict (and yummy) diet, a party, some pampering, a screen-free break, and some new activities.

Although this is not the same thing as a real retreat--where it's all about you, hee hee!--I think it has a good and practical application.

I'll be developing good habits that I can continue at HOME. 

Have any of you tried an at-home retreat? What did you do?

Let's chat!