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Monday, April 2, 2012

Accidental Horror Writer by T.W. Fendley

Accidental horror writer: Genres can be tricky
By: T.W. Fendley

Writing genre fiction can get confusing. You think you're writing science fiction, but others tell you it's fantasy or horror.For those of us who write speculative fiction, I think the lines are often blurry. At least, they're pretty tricky for me. Here are a couple of examples.

A little over a year ago, I had the pleasure of getting to know Fran Friel, the Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of MAMA'S BOY AND OTHER DARK TALES. Although it had been years since I'd read horror, immediately I downloaded her book. I was glad I did. What really surprised me was finding I'd already read one of the short stories--a tale about malevolent dust bunnies. When I learned Fran's new story, "House of the Infinite," was out in the May 2011 issue of Necrotic Tissue, I rushed to get it, too. As I read the futuristic gladiator story, it struck me that I wouldn't have been surprised to find it in a science fiction magazine.

That made me wonder about some stories I hadn't been able to sell. I decided to test my hunch. In my email inbox was a Writer's Digest reminder about its short story contests, so I entered one of my science fiction stories in the horror competition. A few months later, I learned it placed second! Even as I danced around my office, I was thinking, "Hmmm, I guess that means it's horror." Always quick to catch on, I am.

And that wasn't the first time I'd had a blindspot about what makes a story "horror." I thought my first novel, LITTLE SISTERS, was a mystery until an agent told me otherwise. In that case, my murderer telepathically controlled black widow spiders. I guess it should've been easier to for me to figure that one out.

Anyway, that's why I sometimes think of myself as an accidental horror writer. I don't think I've ever intentionally tried to write horror, but what I write sometimes has a mood or an edge that simply isn't "right." Or the "evil element" isn't completely vanquished. It's more than just a gory scene or two. I used to love scary stories and movies, and Edgar Allen Poe has always been a favorite. Maybe that's what comes out when I'm writing?

Well, at least I've worked out the genre for my short story, "Origin of the Species," but now I'm rethinking some others. I've been bombarding traditional sci-fi and fantasy 'zines with my queries, but what if the stories are actually Young Adult, or mystery or horror. It sent me back to the basics, to get more clarity about the differences between the genres. Writer's Digest offers one of the best lists of Fiction Genre Descriptions I've found, but you have to register. (It's free and you can also access other free stuff, like their list of 101 Best Websites for Writers). Writing to Publish also has an extensive list of Fiction Genre Definitions that even breaks each category down into subgenres (more than 25 for horror).

If you've been having trouble finding a home for one of your horror stories, it's possible that you need to reconsider the markets where you're submitting. Check out the genre lists and try sending it to a different kind of publication. You may find you're an accidental fantasy writer!

Thanks, Black Widow, for being a Party Host in my Virtual Book Tour Party!

The ZERO TIME 2012 Virtual Book Tour Party is here!
To celebrate, T.W. Fendley is giving away a Maya-Aztec astrology report, a Mayan Winds CD, ZERO TIME tote bag and fun buttons. Check out the prizes and other posts on the Party Page.

3 ways to enter  (multiple entries are great!)

1) Leave a comment here or on any of the other PARTY POSTS listed on the Party Page.

2) Tweet about the Virtual Party or any of the PARTY POSTS (with tag #ZEROTIME2012)
Example: Join the Virtual Party for historical #fantasy novel ZERO TIME by @twfendley for a chance to win prizes! #ZEROTIME2012 http://bit.ly/x91NgP

3) Facebook (tag @T.W. Fendley) about the Virtual Party. (NOTE: tag must have periods to work)
Example: Join the Virtual Party for historical fantasy novel ZERO TIME by @T.W. Fendley for a chance to win prizes! http://twfendley.com/?page_id=510
You can find ZERO TIME at:
Ebook $4.99
Paperback $16.95


  1. Thanks so much, Shelby, for being a wonderful Party Host on my Virtual Book Tour Party!

  2. Good luck with the book. I hope your virtual tour does well. :-)