Pull back the curtain and see how a suspense writer puts the thrills and chills together.


Confessions of a horror writer

This industry isn’t for the faint of heart. At least, not if you want to get published.

You have to withstand many things in order to succeed: lackadaisical muses, evil reviewers, notoriously difficult gatekeepers, faulty hard drives, killer competition, and–worst of all–the fickle reading public.

Most of the time, I’m able to meet these challenges head on, with my enthusiasm and optimism in check.

But for some reason, May got me down. Hell, May body-slammed me into the pavement and then ground my face into the dirt.

I’m not sure why. May was also the month when my first published book was released. Lots of people told me they bought it. A few of them probably did. I received a bunch of awesome reviews (and a nasty one). The whole month was a big love fest, as far as my writing was concerned.

Then why on earth was I feeling so blue?

It all started when a fellow author hit it big with a self-published best seller. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t bother me, but for some reason it did this time. Maybe because I know the author, if only vaguely.

And then two agents ripped one of my query letters apart. I’d paid for the pleasure and I knew the letter sucked, but that didn’t make it any easier to hear. Even when one of them asked for the full manuscript, my wounds were still smarting.

Again, something that I’d normally take in stride. So what was wrong with me?

To make matters worse, a lot of writers in my community started talking numbers. And let’s just say the numbers weren’t good. Certainly not “quit that day job” good. Which I’d already done, back in 2012. There were tales of other books in other genres making authors a living practically overnight. It was enough to make me hide under my bed and weep for the beleaguered horror genre…almost.

In the middle of it all, that nasty voice at the back of my brain spoke up.

“Maybe you should just quit,” it said. “After all, what’s the point? You’re never going to make a living at this. No one reads horror. Especially your horror.”

I did everything I could to feel better. I went for daily runs. I started gardening again. I hung out with friends. I saw live music. I discussed my feelings with The Boy. I indulged in too much comfort food.

Nothing worked, but you know what did?

Writing. As soon as I returned to my book, weary and discouraged and depressed, I began to feel better. And by the time I started a new book, I was ecstatic.

Writing is the answer. It’s always been the answer. Whether anyone wants to read horror or not. 🙂

What makes you feel like giving up? What keeps you going when that happens? Hope everyone had a much better May than I did!


Jophiel PoA CoverYou probably already know Patricia Lynne from the IWSG and the A to Z Challenge. Be sure to check out her new release!


They must fight to stay on the path.

Joe embraces his duty without fear or hesitation, always ready for the next battle. But the path has never been easy. With Michael’s return, they uncover a truth more dangerous than they ever imagined. Their enemy plans to unleash the devil himself, Lucifer. Help comes in the form of an unlikely alley: a member of the fallen.

Mariangela is trying to make amends by protecting the child she is carrying. After blindly following Lucifer in the rebellion, her misguided allegiance came with a price: banishment from heaven. Now, as she strives for forgiveness in the human world, she must fight to prevent Uriel, a fallen archangel, from using her child to free evil from Hell.

The path becomes a battleground, one which may already be lost.

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00WYJ3J08

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25453774-jophie

1 part newsletter, 1 part unnerving updates,
2 parts sneak peeks of new projects.


  1. Samantha Bryant (@mirymom1)

    I’m right there with you. My first book came out at the end of April, and I had an immediate crash. PPD (post party-partum depression)? Maybe. I think it was the feeling it was out of my hands now. The book was released into the wild and now we’d find out if it could fly.

    It’s had a pretty good start for a book by an unknown, but I won’t be quitting my day job yet (VERY jealous that you’ve done so). But you’ve already found the best solution: write another one! Get it out there in the world. Because one published book does not a career make and we’re in this for the long haul!

    • JH

      Welcome back, Samantha. I’m very sorry to hear you went through something similar. I’m not sure if my blues were caused by the book launch or if it was just a coincidence, but the timing was certainly odd.

      I’m glad your book had a good start–you deserve it! Wishing you lots of sales this month.

  2. Randi

    Hi J.H.!

    Man, do I know the feeling. It’s hard to hear about successes of fellow writers and bloggers when you feel as if you’re having a hard time of things. I’m glad writing got you through it, though. And you’ll have your own success, no worries! Just keep at it 🙂

    Randi Lee, IWSG Co-Host

    • JH

      Thanks so much, Randi Lee! I really hope you’re right.

      And thanks for co-hosting this month.

  3. Anna

    None of us may make a living at writing. That shouldn’t be your focus. Writing the best work possible should. Adjust your sites and who knows where you may land up. Fingers crossed for you. 🙂

    Anna from Elements of Writing

    • JH

      Easier said than done, Anna. I’ve made my living writing (non-fiction) all of my adult life, so I do think of writing as a business. It’s my dream to write fiction for a living.

      While I’m not always focused on the money, it definitely plays a role in my career decisions and where I hope my writing will take me.

  4. Madeline Mora-Summonte

    Nope, May sucked for me, too.

    It’s always hard when a bunch of negative things hit us all at once, like it’s a test of our writing/creative stamina or something. You found your way back, and you will find your footing again.

    Oh, and let me just say that if an agent requested a full ms based on a stinky query letter, you are definitely doing something right!!! 🙂

    • JH

      Thanks, Madeline. I think that particular agent just really likes me. This is the second full she’s requested (two different books).

      Sorry to hear May sucked for you as well. Must be something in the air. Hopefully June is a lot better!

  5. Chrys Fey

    The fact that an agent asked for your manuscript despite your query letter is AMAZING! That’s never happened to me. I’ve only sent the first three chapters on request once and failed at that. And you know, when another author makes it big (lands an agent, a publishing contract, the best-sellers list) I am happy for them but it does sting and puts me in a depressed mood. We all want that, don’t we? But I’ve learned that we all have our times and mine just isn’t now. Soon though, my friend. Our times will be soon. 😀

    Never ever quit!

    • JH

      Thanks, Chrys. I’ve been very fortunate to have a lot of partial and full requests this year, for some reason. They haven’t gotten me anywhere yet (well, I did get an offer, but I had to turn it down) aside from some very nice R&R requests.

      Normally I’m genuinely happy for other authors and their success makes me hopeful. Seeing anyone succeed in this business means we all can, right? But for some reason this one just got to me.

      I appreciate the encouraging words!

  6. Ev Bishop

    Ugh, I know the blues and insecurity of which you write very well. Sorry you had a rough time this month—but hooray for the cure. Writing is the only thing that works when I feel like that, too. 🙂

    So happy, prolific writing to you (and me and everyone else who posts here) this week–and thanks for the reminder that I’m not on the writing path alone.

    • JH

      You’re never alone, Ev. Hope you’re coming to SiWC this year–my other friends are dropping like flies!

      I’m kind of disappointed that I discovered the only cure. I was hoping someone would suggest something a lot easier. 😉

      Hope this month is better for you. I know you’ve been through the wringer too. * Hugs *

  7. Alex J. Cavanaugh

    That’s called the post release downer. The only way to combat it is to stay busy, especially with writing.
    Don’t stress the review and what the agents said. Everyone has an opinion.
    Focus on what you are accomplishing. Doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing. This is YOUR journey.

    • JH

      Thanks, Alex. Usually that’s exactly what I do, but it just wasn’t in the cards last month. For some reason, I needed to feel miserable about things.

      The review actually didn’t bother me (it’s a bit ridiculous) but the agents’ critique really did. I have no idea why. Normally I’d shrug something like that off and get to work.

  8. Charity Bradford

    The sound of crickets makes me want to quit. I don’t write to make a living, but I’d like to know people are reading and at least moderately enjoying my work. My family (aka mostly the husband) makes me want to quit. He feels I let the writing take priority over our family. I could say the same about his job, but mine is only a “hobby”.

    I’ve actually tried to quit, but I have to come back for the same reasons you did. Writing calms me down. Helps me feel whole.

    • JH

      Aw, sorry to hear, Charity. It’s really, really difficult when you don’t have a supportive spouse.

      I’m glad you weren’t successful when you tried to quit. I wouldn’t have “met” you if you had! Please hang in there, and if you ever need a shoulder to cry on or a cheering word, I’m here.

  9. Roland Yeomans

    Emily Dickinson never made it in her lifetime ,,, she was savaged by a respected critic …. yet her poems blazed new trails in how to write and she is a legend, though a recluse in her own life. Who would have even heard about her if she had given up writing poetry? Her poems were beatings of her own heart … and as long as the blood pulsed in her veins, she wrote. We should, too. Hang in there. 🙂

    • JH

      Thanks, Roland! That’s my worst fear, though. I hope I don’t have to die in order to be discovered. 😉

  10. Jaime

    I totally had the same May! It was miserable! I did quit writing, and I quit painting, just to step back and figure out what in the world was going on in my head. It turns out, some personal/family issues were brewing too, so let’s add that to the nervous breakdown and see how May fares. Ugh!

    I very much sympathize with the thoughts you shared in this post, and as a person who is just now taking baby steps into pursuing my writing dream, I so appreciate knowing someone who has already had great accomplishments (you wrote books! that’s huge!) struggles too. I appreciate also that you take the time out to read and comment on my blog posts, that alone sets you apart from most writers/bloggers I follow.

    There must have been something evil lurking in the water during May . . . and hopefully it’s gone back to the hell from whence it came 🙂

    Looking forward to more great tales of horror!

    • JH

      Thanks so much, Jaime. I’m really sorry to hear you had a miserable May too. Normally it’s a great month. I have no idea what happened.

      I know it’s hard to believe, but when you get a little success, you have even more self-doubt because there is more pressure and more to compare yourself to. For instance, Amazon rankings don’t exist for the unpublished author.

      Being a professional artist is a never-ending struggle, but thankfully there are wonderful moments too that make it all worth it. Hang in there!

      And I really enjoy your blog. I’m happy to support it.

  11. VR Barkowski

    Writing is a perpetual state of cognitive dissonance: the absolute joy at fellow writers’ success and that nasty voice in your head asking why aren’t you as successful? There’s constant doubt about whether you’ve made the correct choices or if you failed to do something you should have. You’re right, the only answer is to keep writing.

    It’s unfortunate the ability to pen a compelling query letter has zero to do with the ability to write a fabulous manuscript. Fortunately, there are agents who recognize this. Congratulations on the request for a full!

    Most important thing? Never fail to celebrate your successes and never give up.

    • JH

      Thanks, VR. I’m hoping this month will be one of more celebrations, and I hope you have a great one as well.

      It’s great to have this occasion once a month to chat with other people who understand all the craziness, joy, and sorrows of being a professional writer.

  12. Ula

    I’m sorry to hear May had you down and I hope June will be much better. Writing seems to be the answer to pretty much anything.

    • JH

      If only I could remember that and figure it out sooner! Thanks for the kind words, Ula. I hope so too.

  13. Patricia Lynne

    Whenever I get down, writing does always seem to pick me up. Even when that’s what got me down in the first place. I think we both have a problem.

    Thanks for highlighting my book too. (You’re a week early though. ^^)

    • JH

      Oh no! So sorry about being early. Do you want me to do it again next week? I’d be happy to.

      I’d suggest a support group for us, but we’re already in one. 🙂

  14. Toi Thomas

    Sorry to hear you had such a stressful May. I try not to let things get to me too, but sometimes we just can’t help it. I like that you found a way to feel better by writing. I think that usually works for me as well.

    Not that it makes a difference, but I’m proud of you. I haven’t known you long, but I like telling people that I know you. I don’t have a lot of friends who are fans of horror, but I tell people to check you out anyway just in case they discover something.

    I’m not going to pretend to be happy at others successes all the time, but I refuse to hate on another writer. If someone is working for their dream, then they deserve their success. I have to think that mine will come along at some point.

    • JH

      It makes a huge difference, Toi. I’m so touched by your kind words–thank you. And thanks so much for spreading the word about my book! That means the world to me. So few people will take the time, and it’s so wonderful that you do.

      I definitely didn’t hate on this writer–I was happy for her, and proud of her, but at the same time, I felt this overwhelming despair, like I should just give up. I can’t understand it. I’ve truly never had anyone else’s success affect me that way before. I’m just going to chalk it up to a bad month.

      I’m very proud of you and happy to know you too. You are an extraordinary person. <3 And your day will definitely come!

  15. Bonnie

    Aww Holli. Big hugs. If it helps, you’re my inspiration.

    I loved your enthusiasm and sheer determination in participating in the A-to-Z blogging challenge in April. Your book released in May! It seems that a few SIWC members had book releases last month. If you can do it, then one day, maybe I’ll make it there. I see that it all took hard work and perseverance, not magic.

    Sometimes all the future obstacles get us overwhelmed. Remember to take time to really reflect on and celebrate the successes you’ve accomplished. I’m sure that one year ago, you could not have forseen how much you would achieve. The same is true for the future.

    Hopefully, you will feel better this month and the next one, and the next one…

    • JH

      Thanks so much, Bonnie! Are you returning to SiWC this year?

      I’m so glad and humbled that I can inspire anyone. I do try to celebrate my successes, but the truth is I’m very hard on myself. Even if my first published book was a seven-figure best-seller that had billboards up all over the world, I’d probably find something to kick myself over…but hopefully not.

      And of course you can make it there! Look at all the positive feedback you received last year!

  16. Mary Aalgaard

    My guess is insecurities. And, I know that committee that meets in your head to rev up the negative talk. Tell them to take their pizza and booze and hang out some other place! You are a terrific writer. I truly believe you will have much success as a published writer. Keep’em coming!

    • JH

      Thanks so much, Mary. You’re so awesome to say so. <3

  17. Heather M. Gardner

    I think some of it is the big lead up to the release and then …. *cricket* …. nothing really happens. Sure we get some sales and a few reviews, but nothing earth shattering occurs.
    I was so sure once I had two books out that I’d feel better, feel more like an author, feel accomplished, but I really don’t.
    I feel exhausted. Pooped. Done in. I need a rest, but there’s no time to rest. Life goes on and so do we.
    I’m glad you started writing again. It does help.
    I took out an old MS and blew the dust off to see if that inspires me.
    Let’s keep moving forward!

    • JH

      That’s where I really don’t feel right complaining, Heather. I was so happy with how my book did! It’s my first release, it’s a novella, and it’s with an epub, but it cracked the Top 20 in the Horror category and it did it more than once. I got many reviews, guest posts, and tons of support.

      I really can’t complain. I’m not sure what was up my butt, but I know it wasn’t the fault of my book.

      I can definitely relate to the fatigue part, though. Maybe I just needed a rest but felt I couldn’t take one. I hope your new MS does the trick! 🙂

  18. Stephanie Faris

    I don’t know very many authors who can make a living at it, even traditionally published. Oh, they’ll pretend they do and they’ll inflate the numbers but I’ve found many of them are lying. They’re married and their spouses support them or they have day jobs or inheritance income that they don’t mention are what really pays the bills…. The average book sells 3,000 copies over its entire lifetime, I’ve been told.


    • JH

      Wow, Stephanie. I’m not sure if that makes me feel better or worse. 😉


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