Posted in Craft, horror, Interviews, writers, Writing and Poetry

Let’s Talk with Matt Molgaard

Let’s Talk

Traci Kenworth


This is a new feature on the blog. Please welcome Matt Molgaard of Horror Novel Reviews. Matt is the author of The Belmont Brothers: Binds Part One; Horror Novel Reviews: Passages of Pain, Lyrics of Loss; My Hero, Peter Cushing; and his current novel, Say No to Drugs.


Matt, tell us a little bit about Horror Novel Reviews?

Well, we’re working hard to ensure that HNR is the go-to site for genre novel coverage. We’re all over the place handling news, reviews, release schedules, editorials. And we were able to branch out and begin publishing last year. To date we’ve released a trio of collections (When Red Snow Melts, One Hellacious Halloween and Passages of Pain, Lyrics of Loss) in addition to this new release, Say No to Drugs. We’re about to move into the poster field as well. I work with an amazing artist by the name of Dan Melby and he does anything and everything. We’ll be launching a new run of limited edition collectible posters that fans of horror novels and fans of horror movies are really going to love. 


What is it about the horror genre that draws you into writing for it?

Fear just riles me up. I love to be frightened. It doesn’t matter if I’m reading a book or watching a movie, or walking to the local Walgreens at midnight. I just love that sensation. Fear is very unique and it’s a nice reminder that we’re still alive. 


Who are your influences?

There are a lot of people who inspire me, I can tell you that. I always try to do my own thing, and close myself off to outside influences as much as possible when writing, but it’s impossible to completely eliminate the impact that work that people like Ray Bradbury, Rod Serling and HP Lovecraft were involved in. Those were true geniuses. You just don’t stumble upon minds like that everyday.  


What are some tips you’d recommend for today’s horror writer?

Always write as much as you can. It’s best to stay as disciplined as possible and make writing a serious habit. And it isn’t too hard to do that really. Once you’ve created something that you’re attached to, it’s pretty easy to really get on a comfortable schedule. There are a lot of things authors can do to create the best fiction they possibly can, and that’s a really big one, in my opinion.


Could you tell us about your writing process?

I’m extremely sporadic, and I always, always answer the call of my imagination. If I’ve got 15k words banked on a specific story, and I suddenly feel compelled to work on a completely different story, I’ll drop what I’m doing and move to the next thing. I’ll eventually make it back to what I was working on, but if it isn’t burning me up inside, and I’ve got something else that is, then that’s where I’m going to really invest my time and energies. Other than that, I try to approach every story from different angles. Sometimes I’ll plot everything out meticulously. Outlines, storyboards, five (if not more) drafts. And sometimes the stories fly by and I blow through everything with little premeditated thoughts or actual structuring of any sort. It’s always different for me, and it changes with each story and how the characters in those stories move me. 


What are some of your greatest fears? And how do you use them to enliven your writing?

Being powerless absolutely scares the hell out of me. That often manifests itself in my dreams, which are the inspiration for at least eight out of every 10 of the stories I write. 


What do you see as the future for the horror genre?

I don’t know. I’m hoping zombies finally die… really die. I can still handle the films and there are some good programs on TV. I still get a kick out of Robert Kirkman’s monster, The Walking Dead. But when it comes to zombie in novels I am absolutely shot. O’m just fried on them. That’s the only major swing I’d like to see in the genre at this point. As long as we continue to see awesome movies and novels hitting the market, I’m happy.


You’ve written in Fangoria, Horror Asylum, Relativity Media, and currently, Horror Novel Reviews. Is there any advice you offer those trying to write for the short story markets?

No matter what branch of this tree you want to walk on, you’ve got to be prepared to do serious work. Writing is a blast, but the moment you decide you’re going to take it seriously and look to make it a career, you’ve got to understand that it is work. It’s not just fun and games. It’s a job and it takes time and energy. You will not climb any mountains if you’re not prepared to work hard. 


Finally, I understand that Say No to Drugs is two stories in one volume. Can you tell us about each of them?

They’re both nods to vintage EC Comics, but they’re also cautionary in nature without (well, I hope) being too preachy. The Pot is the story of a few high school guys who just want to get high. Unfortunately doing drugs doesn’t come without a price and these characters run face first into that realization when they discover their drug dealer in a strange state. The second story in the book is called Blue, and it’s about severe drug abuse, intense hallucinations and all the wrong things that can happen to someone when they’ve pumped enough toxins into their body to numb an elephant. 


Here is an excerpt: of the book:

The door of Mrs. Macy’s classroom swung open, creaking on its rusted hinges. A cold draft blew in, accompanied by an uncharacteristically large plume of fog. Both propelled Jimmy Hanniger in the direction of the front of the class. He hadn’t given up on practicing miserable hygiene, it seemed. A rotten stench leaked from his every pore, trapped in the disintegrating fog, torturing all in its wake. The stink trailed behind him like a lost puppy in search of a new owner as he made the trek to his seat; giving way to sneers, turned heads and plugged noses. His dirty-blonde hair was in shambles, knotted and filthy, tangles overtaking his cranium. A smudge – of what looked like chocolate (but who the hell really knew?) – smeared the length of his left cheek. He wore the same Bob Dylan tee-shirt he’d worn the previous two days, and it didn’t seem as though he’d changed his jeans recently either. Both were covered in stains and riddled with holes, one of which, located in the crotch of his jeans, revealed glimpses of dingy white boxer shorts with each stride.


Perhaps he’d be a fashion genius, were it 1986 and the punk scene still thrived. Hell, he could have fit in quite well with the loser youth of the 1990s, or the rogues of the ‘70s. Today, he was sorely out of place.


He yawned, exposing a series of green teeth, dark tendrils snaked through his rotten gums. That was an orifice that had started heading south years ago, never to look back. Those dark green tones creeping through the gums were an obvious indicator of years of neglect. “What’s up, Mrs. Macy? What did I miss?” He shuffled onward, his left index finger reached for the concave of a nostril before – immediately – straying south to scratch at his crotch.


“A shower and a change of clothing, Mr. Hanniger,” Mrs. Macy’s frustration shone through her flush complexion.


He kept silent (save for a quick fart that summoned groans from the girls and laughter from the boys) as he crossed the room and slid lazily into his chair. Positioned directly to his right was Ray Waltz. Ray was the rebellious type. The leader of a small band of misfits who probably couldn’t put two and two together, if four consolation prizes were on the line. If a rule was made, Ray was there to break it – to Hell with everything else. He didn’t care for authority figures, and, while he was happy to use Jimmy for his resourcefulness when it came to obtaining weed, he didn’t particularly care for the kid. “You get all high before school again, dipshit,” Ray asked as Jimmy’s jiggly structure plopped into a seat two sizes too small for his husky frame.


Jimmy stifled a laugh and scratched at a beard that had yet to grow in. Not so much as a strand of peach fuzz peaked through his blemish (and chocolate, most likely) covered face. “If you only knew, Waltz. If you only fuckin’ knew.” This time he did laugh, which drew an immediate scowl from the teacher.


“Well, don’t be a fuckin’ prick. Cough some of that shit up.”


“Next shipment doesn’t come up until five. And I’m not sure you wanna flirt with this shit.”


“Boys!” Mrs. Macy’s voice rang out, the entire room overcome by sudden tension as she strode forward. “Are you finished?” Her gaze was piercing, boring a hole through both Ray and Jimmy, who opted to turn toward the nearest window and embrace the quiet of an early spring morning rather than engage in a war of words with their snarky teacher. Mrs. Macy shook her head violently before returning to the front of the room. A healthy stretch of first period expired before Ray reignited the conversation.


“Is your old man gonna be home? Should we hook up at the skate park, or what?”


“Ray… listen,” Jimmy leaned over and lowered his voice, “you might be a hard ass, but I’m tellin’ ya right now, ya can’t handle this shit. Just do yourself a favor and drop it. Wait till tomorrow when I get the KGB in. This stuff,” He said, pointing at his head with the same finger that had moments ago ventured deep into nasal passages before straying south of the border, “really… gets inside ya,” Jimmy’s eyes took on a strangely hardened edge, his pupils dilated. He shattered the suddenly eerie atmosphere as he let out a high pitched cackle.


An ice cold stare and a warning of a trip to the dean’s office led to another brief stretch of quasi-attentiveness.


“Handle what shit,” Terry Krager, one of Ray’s notorious cronies who sat in front of Jimmy had turned around after detecting a lull in Mrs. Macy’s observational habits. A devious grin crept across his freckle covered face. “You got some more of that smoka choka, dontcha buddy,” Terry poked at Jimmy, which garnered no response. “Well spit it out mother fucker, you got the chronic or what?”


“You guys think you want the chronic, huh?”


“Bitch, did we stutter,” Ray leered at the sad excuse for a human being who sat beside him, all patronizing grins, obnoxious odor, rolls of flab and tattered garments.


Kids like that always ended up in a gutter somewhere. No money, no friends… hell, no life.


“You get your fuckin’ money, and we get our fuckin’ weed. That’s always been the deal,” Ray hissed in frustration.


Then again, kids like that didn’t typically do too well either.


“That’s always been the deal,” Jimmy nodded in casual agreement.


“Look, we graduate in eight days. I wanna spend this last week partyin’ right. You know what I mean? So wadda ya say, you show up at the skate park around seven and we take care of business?”


“No can do, Ray.”


Terry let out a controlled chuckle, pointing at Ray, whispering harsh antagonism. “This piece of trailer trash is fuckin’ with you son! He’s fuckin’ with you! The junkie, makin’ you look like a junkie…. Ah man ain’t that funny business,” Terry had a way of pushing everyone’s buttons. If the slightest crack in the window of opportunity presented itself, he’d slide a snide joke right on through and watch it crawl inside you till you were ready to explode. Always the first to prod.


The trio cut their conversation short when Mrs. Macy advanced, a fearsome glower aimed in their direction, patience all but extinct. Her eyes always seemed to glow, a bright red burning away behind the surface; a furnace within the face of authority. A tirade of edited insults and a follow through threat (this time, technically, a promise) of a trip to the dean’s office spewed from lips wrinkled by years of long draws on Kools before she spun and headed for the front of the class once more.


Smoking did a hell of a job on that one. Take the chap-stick away and those lips sure look like an asshole, Terry thought as the teacher stormed away. He turned to Ray, crossed his eyes and made an unsettling puckering motion with his lips before quickly returning his attention to the front of the class.



I want to thank you for your time and being on Traci Kenworth: A Writer’s World. Good luck with your book and Horror Novel Reviews.

Thank you, Tracy. The pleasure was certainly mine!

Matt Molgaard





Posted in dark fantasy, horror, Reading, writers, Writing and Poetry

Horror Reveal

Horror Reveal

Traci Kenworth


Is it better to reveal the monster in the beginning all at once or to show glimpses as you go along? I prefer doing the snaps, the flashes that make the characters wonder: what’s out there? To tease the reader with your monster leads to a build-up that you must pay off in the end, each time the monster enters, you show a bit more than before. The teeth. The claws. The horrible, stinky breath. Each reveal getting a little closer and in-your-face. That’s how you build suspense, that’s how you make your reader gasp when the reveal happens.

When you go all out in the beginning, there’s no mystery, nothing to make the terror in your heart grow. Most horror writers know this and stick to this pattern. You don’t show the thing in the basement in scene one, but make the reader hear it, smell it, imagine it in their minds before you bring it on stage. It ups the ante, so to speak. So when, at last, that door opens and the thing creeps up behind the hero or heroine, we anticipate/shrink in fear/scream at what they see when they turn around.

What do you think? Show things up front, or take it slow?

Posted in dark fantasy, fantasy, horror, Muse, writers, Writing and Poetry

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Posted in a bit of seriousness, dark fantasy, fantasy, horror, Reading, Writing and Poetry

Finding My Way between Genres

Fantasy Faire 2009
Fantasy Faire 2009 (Photo credit: Monyokararan.)


Finding My Way between Genres


Traci Kenworth




I know I’ve said I write scary before, but it occurred to me recently that I also bring in the whole world-building of fantasy as well. I find myself teetering between genres. My stories definitely have all the horror elements but the world is steeped in the fantasy settings I grew up on. It’s because of this that I’m no longer going to focus solely on horror on my blog but add in fantasy as well. Call it my salute to LOTR.


I enjoy all the details of fantasy: the creatures, the people, the cultures, the magic, on and on. I was in heaven when I attended a Medieval festival a few years back. It was like stepping between the pages of one of my beloved author’s books. So, I’m going to start visiting topics on another genre I love.


I don’t know quite how the genres ended up mixing together for me. It’s taken me quite a while. I realized what I have isn’t strictly horror but a blend of the two. I’ve invited giants, ghosts, and the undead into my world. Why restrict myself to one element when I can discuss so much more? So from now on, I write scary with a bite of dark fantasy.


Posted in a bit of seriousness, Reading, writers, Writing and Poetry

Things That Go Bump in the Night

Tobin @ Oakwell: 2010
Tobin @ Oakwell: 2010 (Photo credit: mySAPL)

Things That Go Bump in the Night

Traci Kenworth


I prefer the word Scary book to Horror. Most likely because most people think of horror as an abomination and although some of the things I write about, no doubt, are, I still prefer to leave the reader with something to think about on a day-to-day level and not just shovel out blood and guts. Not that all horror books do. I just prefer scary because it confides a reaction our reader will hopefully have while reading. I know people can be horrified by scenes in books too or what the theme implies but what I want to do is dig down into the ether of our souls and show what lies there. That, to me, is scary. Horror denotes a bucket of repulsion. Scary can be defeated. Horror lives on.

I don’t know about you, but I want to believe some of the characters will survive, triumph even, in the end. When there’s a mass slaughtering, I come away with a what’s the point question. I like chills as much as the next person but when it’s over and done, wouldn’t you sleep easier knowing that the boogeyman has been blasted back into the dark grave he crawled from? Or the police found the killer in question and he’s now behind bars rather than jet-setting to Europe to begin a new onslaught there? The horror that surrounds Jack the Ripper never ends. He’s real and even the best detectives couldn’t uncover his identity. I imagine his terror haunts many an alleyway, dark street, and parking lot at night still. Copycats abound.

When I suffer through my characters with some monstrosity, I want to believe they have a chance, a method to defeat the Big Bad in the end. To kill them all off would actually be easier than letting them win. It takes pain, it takes work, everything you’re got to go up against something that means to destroy you. Whether this be in real life or fiction, readers can take away a sliver of hope, perhaps, that they too can overcome. In The Stand, Stephen King re-built a future home for people in Colorado. Within The Watchers, Dean Koontz showed us that even the common man can defeat evil.  Even the worst of monsters, Dracula, met his fate at the end of a simple stake. So what are your opinions on scary versus horror? Do you prefer survivors or an all-out zombie buffet? Which would make you sleep better at night?

Posted in a bit of seriousness, humor & fun, Muse, Reading, writers, Writing and Poetry

Relationships in Horror

The Sandman was advertised as "a horror-e...
The Sandman was advertised as “a horror-edged fantasy set in the DC Universe” in most of DC’s comics dated “Holiday 1988,” an extra issue tying in with the Invasion! crossover, which was the last to involve pre-Vertigo characters such as Swamp Thing, Black Orchid, Animal Man, Doom Patrol, and Shade, the Changing Man, save for Worlds’ End’s loose connection to Zero Hour: Crisis in Time. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Relationships are Key to Horror

Traci Kenworth


For me, when writing horror, the relationships are the key. The ones between your characters and, most importantly, the reader. Because if the reader doesn’t care what happens to them, then the book’s just going to be tossed aside or deteriorate on the shelves. So how do we set off getting the reader to feel empathy for the people in our story world? We show them aspects of themselves in our fictional creations. The friendly, well-meaning neighbor who not everyone appreciates until the day something horrible happens near where you live. They’re always observant, always into what’s happening in the neighborhood. You dismiss them out of hand on a regular day. Until a zombie appears and they become you and your family’s best bet to escape the Apocalypse.

The disgruntled grandpa, no one pays much attention to anymore. His crazy ways are just not appealing—until when the count goes down and your life’s on the line and he ends up saving it. What about the bad example teenager no one understands, who ends up being your savior when the demons/vamps come out at night? The woman tortured and left by the roadside who triumphs over her abuser in the end? We read about these personalities because we’re hooked by a trait of theirs, with which we can identify. Who hasn’t felt out of place at a fancy party? Tongue-tied in a foreign area/country? A bit crazed when cut off on the roadway? Those are pieces we may not like to agree we identify with, but they’re there still.

We develop our characters for readers to both love, tolerate, or downright hate. Every emotion becomes important, a chance to communicate with the reader. When our heroine feels ruined by the loss of her home, we understand that. When a young boy wants to take an adventure and escape “everyday life” we want to know why, who he’s with, and why that relationship is important to the story. So what are some of the ways you use the familiarity in your own selves in writing to pull the reader in and “show” them that we all make-up a puzzle that once together, becomes our character/s?

Posted in a bit of seriousness, Muse, Reading, writers, Writing and Poetry

The Helpless Hero or Heroine…

Magazine cover
Magazine cover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just a quick note about
more changes to my blog. Since I made the last ones in January as I mentioned
then, I was going to do some thinking on the state of things here. I love
blogging, I do but I’ve come to realize it subtracts from the time I have for
my stories and that’s not good. So, I’m going to cut back to blogging once a
week on Tuesdays and try to do topics that may interest readers as well as
writers. Most of the focus will still be on horror, so I hope that you’ll stop
in. It has been such a wonderful experience getting to know you all. I just
feel if I want to become a published writer, I need to concentrate on getting
my work out there.


The Clueless Hero or Heroine

Traci Kenworth


How many of you dislike the hapless hero or heroine
in horror stories? I know the clichés have been turned inside out many times
with different films but personally, I like my characters to have a bit more
smarts. Isn’t that what it takes to defeat evil, after all? Oh, yes, courage is
a definite plus when it comes to things that go bump in the night, but the
survivor/s usually have to figure out a way to get out of whatever they’ve
dropped into, unless it’s, of course, a changed world where they have to
recognize a path to take that will either save or end them. Every corner has
its openings, we just have to look for them and sometimes risk all.

Granted, not everyone is a fighter. There are just
those who will not defend themselves. Often, another character will fight for
them and try to keep them alive. I like to think, eventually that person will
see that they’re worth defending and begin the change necessary to make it in
the new world/situation at hand. Maybe, over the course of the tale, they’ll
even become heroic themselves. Most horror has characters that often don’t
really change at all. I find this boring and sad. Each of us would react to
things in a different way. Some who may have been lost in life, might find a
purpose. Others, will rocket toward destruction. These different types are what
make life up and exploring them is what I like to focus on in my own work: the
overcomer. Rather than fleeing from terror, they reach a point where they make
a stand. Because they have to, if only to go on.

So, for you readers out there, what do you
like/dislike about the characters in horror stories/films/etc.? What type of
personalities would you like to see more of?

And writers: do you strive to make your characters
stand out? “Breathe” on the pages? Or do you settle for the usual horror

Posted in a bit of seriousness, Reading, Writing and Poetry

Scary…to me

Combat Gear
Combat Gear (Photo credit: John Starfire)

Scary…to Me

Traci Kenworth


I considered many ways to write this blog but I couldn’t quite pinpoint what I wanted to say. We can define horror in many ways: evil, savage, beastly, to name a few. The fact of the matter is, the types are endless. When I write scary stories, it’s not to invite anyone over to the dark side, or gross someone out so that they lose their lunch. I’m interested in what scares you and me and finding a way to combat those fears. I can think of a lot in this world that terrifies me: the loss of freedom, safety, and loved ones. I’m horrified at some of the real life events that happen. In my stories, I want the reader to find hope, a reason to go on when everything is numb, and quite simply, when there are no words.

My heroes and heroines aren’t perfect. They have flaws just like you and me. They love, hate, and sometimes struggle to forgive. Life is difficult for us and fictional characters. I wish that weren’t true in our case but I’m glad it is in theirs because it forces our story people to come up higher. They find the strength, hope, and courage. With everything in them, they fight to save those they love. Sometimes they have to learn to let go too. Bitterness, anger, hatred, these can crush a person. It’s only when they overcome this darkness the light shines into the cave for them and all the bats rush outside. So, I suppose you could say, I like to bring my characters back from the brink of death, just to show them, it’s possible.

Over and over, we hear that those that do something horrible showed few signs of what they were capable of here on this Earth. In fiction, I sometimes smudge those gray areas as well. Villains love their wives, pets, even their dolls. They seem like us and yet, there is a pocket of pure evil within them that we can’t begin to understand. It forces us to confront them, ourselves, in an attempt to blot them from existence. We don’t want to see the cannibal living among us, the abuser, or the monster in the shadows. Somehow, we think if we don’t look, they aren’t there. Horror fiction to me, exposes that under seam of life, that certain nasty we want to ignore. It drives the protagonist to stab that vampire through the heart with a stake. Perhaps this same protagonist is attempting to atone for what he is himself: a bystander who takes no action against a savage act, until someone he cares about is harmed.

I don’t want to get all morally superior here and determine what is and isn’t good horror. There is certainly material out there that I find as objectionable as the next. But this is about what I write and why. Sometimes it’s because I’ve been the one in hiding, running for my life. Others, it’s because I want to show to that young girl or boy or even older reader, there is a future, a bright one, and you can triumph over evil. It’s not easy. But someday, someone will take your hand and lead you into the daylight. That’s why I write scary. So that, by doing so, I can shatter the demons around us.

Posted in a bit of seriousness, Muse, Reading, Uncategorized, writers, Writing and Poetry


English: Cain and Abel
English: Cain and Abel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)




Traci Kenworth




From a Biblical standpoint, horror entered existence with the story of Cain and Abel. Two brothers. No inherent conflict hinted at until—both made offerings to God. Abel’s was accepted and found good, Cain’s lacking. Why? Because Cain didn’t put his best effort into it. He held back. I imagine he did this with a lot of things in his life. Being secretive doesn’t just happen one day, it’s part of a person’s character. Can’t you just see Cain skulking around, upset that his parent’s paid more attention to his younger brother than him? Jealousy can run rampant and well, violence erupts. No one envisioned that one day Cain would slay his brother but the roots had to have been there since Day One of Abel’s birth. Perhaps Eve noticed this when the two siblings played some game, or Adam when he taught them each the job they would undertake (Abel—farming the land, Cain—taking care of the livestock).


You can be sure that tempting Eve in the garden with the fruit from The Tree of Life wasn’t the last time Lucifer entered the family’s lives. Can’t you just see him there, hiding, playing on Cain’s fears that Abel would take everything that he loved away? Pushing him, prodding him, planting the seed that would cause him to one day murder his brother? Evil lies in wait for good. It always has. That I think sums up why the genre is both appealing to its readers and repulsive to others. Those who are drawn to it want to confront this darkness in whatever form it comes in (clowns, terminators, corpses, etc.) and destroy it. We want to see The Mummy blown back into the tomb it came from, the silver bullet take down the fearsome werewolf, and the little girl freed from the devil’s possession. It’s a sense of closure for us, to know that the good guy/girl does win in the end which doesn’t always happen in real life.


Since the dawn of time, many people have sat around campfires telling stories. About ghosts. Monsters. Hitchhikers. We listen with bated breath because we’re all looking for a way to protect ourselves, to shine a light down into the pit to expose the evil that lies in wait. It’s about survival. Some of us are looking for a way to beat back the zombie apocalypse. Every country, every group of persons, every religion has its beliefs. To me, horror isn’t about fanning the flames and showcasing the grotesque. It’s about standing together when things go south, having a goal in common, and when everything’s said and done, killing the virus before it becomes airborne.


Posted in a bit of seriousness, humor & fun, Reading, writers, Writing and Poetry

Kids and Pets in Fiction

Cover of "Watchers"
Cover of Watchers

Kids and Pets in Fiction

Traci Kenworth


Does the same old adage that said of films, “Don’t work with children or pets,” apply to fiction? I know of some people who don’t like children to be included in the stories they read. I think basically because usually they turn into “jeopardy” situations or they’re used as pawns to one-up a relationship. Pets are brought in just to be in the scene as well, they figure. But is this true, or can both be included in works as a vital part of what happens?

I admit to being terrified when a child is kidnapped in books. They remind me of my own children and not only bring out feelings of a lioness, but encourage in me the notion of just how far I’d go to protect/find my kid again. And the use of one as leverage in a relationship makes me furious. Likewise, the love for my animals is brought to test when reading about tragedies or triumphs on their parts in fiction.

Reading these kind of books though often bring out the harsh realities in the world. It does happen: one has only to look at the missing children posters. And who hasn’t been in or heard of a nasty divorce where one/or both parties struggle to win custody? Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been there. And in my case, thank God the judge saw through the lies and manipulations on his part. There are heroes out there that fight to keep safe those who can’t protect themselves. I believe they’re worth writing about.

After all, what parent doesn’t close the cover of Ramsey Campbell’s Mine or one of Mary Higgins Clark’s novels and instantly goes to check on their children to make sure their all right? Fiction educates us to an awareness we might not otherwise think about. Likewise, Dean Koontz is famous for including animals in his stories. Who hasn’t read The Watchers and not been thankful that their pet wasn’t part of some outrageous lab experiment?

Animals and children in fiction stir our emotions just like that heart-stopping moment when our hero, heroine, or both succeed? Why should they not therefore not be included in our works being that they’re such a big part of our lives? I know not everyone wants to read these stories. Just like not everyone wants to read horror, thrillers, and romance. It’s to everyone’s taste, I realize. I just think both could be used to widen our worlds, make our character’s “realer” to us.

So tell me, does a book that includes children or pets not get a second glance from you? Why or why not? Or do you grasp the copy just a little tighter thinking of your son or daughter at home, or little Eski, the American Eskimo dog?