Halbert Fiction

Wake up and smell the creepy.

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The Writing Process Blog Tour

Posted by Marianne Halbert on June 16, 2014 at 5:35 PM Comments comments (1)

I was asked by Meghan Arcuri-Moran to participate in the Writing Process Blog Tour. (Thank you Meghan!) You can see her blog here: http://meghanarcuri.com/

So here we go...


1) What are you currently working on?

I've had about 30 short stories published, and now I'm focusing my energies on a novel titled, "The Lady's Pocket". I love "living history" museums and ghost tours. When we were visiting Williamsburg, we went into the clothing shop. I learned about "ladies' pockets", which functioned the way purses do now. Women kept personal items in them, only back then they were pockets tied around the waist underneath clothing. I couldn't stop thinking about what could be hidden in there and the idea for my novel began to form. In this story, a young woman begins working at a village which re-creates 1850's Indiana. She soon realizes that the ghost stories she's telling are real, and an old mystery wants to be solved. Going for gothic with this one. I really love a good ghost story, and hope to create a memorable one here.


2) How does your work differ from others in the genre?

My stories tend to be less gory than the work of many of my peers. My writing has been described as creepy, almost gentle, heartbreaking horror, and sexy. I like complicated characters, creating an atmosphere of suspense, and writing unsettling plots. I also like to leave a lot to the imagination.


3) Why do you write what you do?

My biggest influence is "The Twilight Zone". I love weird plots, and placing ordinary people in bizarre circumstances. I also grew up reading Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, and Edgar Allan Poe. I've always loved the old Hammer films. It seems no matter what I write, it tends to end up dark. And I'm totally ok with that. I tend to prefer writing supernatural horror. I see enough of man's inhumanity to man on the news, and my writing is an escape from that.


4) How does your writing process work?


I don't outline, but for the novel I do have notes. Lots and lots of notes. I did a lot of research to learn about life in the 1850's. When I write I always know the beginning and the end. In fact the end is usually the clearest part of the story in my mind. It's the middle that will surprise me in terms of how we get from here to there. My first drafts are skeletal, usually about half the length of the finished product. It helps me to get the plot down, and get to know the characters. Then I go back in to make everything richer and layered, and fill in anything I missed the first time. And then I revise. And revise. And revise. I don't have a set routine or schedule. There are some days I don't write at all, and others (when I'm running with the muse) where I don't want to leave my laptop because the story is flowing. I'm fortunate to have a wonderful critique group and I get their feedback before sending anything off to a potential publisher.

And the tour continues...

I met Peter Dudar at AnthoCon, and have read his collection, "Dolly and Other Stories". He's a very nice guy who writes very scary stuff.

S.M. Harding is a member of my critique group and writes mysteries and crime fiction. Her advice over the years has meant a lot to me, and she writes beautifully.

They'll be sharing their writing process next week. You can find Peter's at http://peterndudar.wordpress.com/ and S.M. Harding's at https://www.facebook.com/pages/S-M-Harding/1418850558392873


Women in Horror Month

Posted by Marianne Halbert on February 13, 2014 at 8:30 PM Comments comments (0)

ncThis has been an exceptional Women in Horror Month for me.


In the fall of 2013 I was asked by an editor to submit a story to their upcoming anthology which would launch in February 2014 to celebrate Women in Horror Month (WiHM). This was the second time I'd been invited to submit to an anthology, and it ended up being my 30th story to be accepted for publication. I was honored, and excited about being a part of the WiHM celebration. I'm a woman. I write horror. What's not to like?


The anthology launched as planned. I was enjoying the usual pleasures that go along with a launch: meeting the co-contributors over Facebook, promoting the anthology, reading all the stories. I was featured in a blog spotlighting Women in Horror. That was a great feeling! February is awesome! I love WiHM!


At some point I saw an (un)official WiHM banner with a photo of a female vampire mouth. Red lips, fangs, a tongue licking a wayward drop of blood. I loved it. It obviously said "Woman". (Female lips.) It clearly said "Horror". (Vampire, fangs, blood). I adopted it as my Facebook Profile Picture for the month of February, because...I love WiHM! This is fun! Then someone posted a link to a Wikipedia page spotlighting Women in Dark Fiction. There were a lot of familiar names. Mary Shelley. The Bronte sisters. Shirley Jackson. And...Marianne Halbert. What? Honestly I was stunned. But also really happy to be included on that list. A lot of my modern day peers were listed too and I was happy to be in good company. Things could not get any better. I love WiHM!!! :)


Then a not so nice thing happened. A very ugly thing happened. Someone I don't know started an ugly thread. It insulted the photo I was using. It insulted women. It insulted women in horror. I know misogyny exists, but to see it laid out like that, to see that thought process unfolding, frankly was pretty unsettling. I felt attacked. I felt self conscious. I considered changing my profile pic. I wondered if people were really only buying my stories because I have cleavage and girl lips? (OK, that last sentence is sarcasm. The rest, not so much.)


There was a flood of pushback. Other men and women calling this guy out. Some of the comments that stayed with me were along the lines of "I think women wear red lipstick because they think it looks pretty", "How do you pronounce his name? Not sure but I think it's Wan-ker", "Since when did sexy become an invitation to insult?", "These red lips aren't for you. They're for me." One friend (who is more comfortable in his skin that almost anyone I know) posted a photo of himself with red lipstick in a show of solidarity. I am still laughing over that one.


So this blog post isn't about the wanker. I've made 10 new friends in the last 24 hours over this issue. Friends I already had are even more esteemed than before. I know I can hold my own when it comes to writing horror and this is where I belong. And I've kept my red lips. This has been an exceptional Women in Horror Month for me.


The Next Big Thing

Posted by Marianne Halbert on August 26, 2012 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (0)

1. What is the working title of your book? The title of my collection is "Wake Up and Smell the Creepy." That's been my tagline for several years, so I thought it was an appropriate title for my first collection. Hoping to launch it October 2012.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book? I guess enough people kept asking where they could get my stories, and right now they're in over 20 different places. This will let them find my first 9 stories all in one place.

3. What genre does your book fall under? All of the stories are creepy in one way or another. Some crime fiction, some speculative, some horror.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? I'd be thrilled if Michael Fassbender ever played one of my characters. I could definitely see him in "The Last Spectre" or "Proof Beyond a Shadow."

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Some mystery, some weird, some horror, all dark.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? Each of the stories was originally "traditionally" published in various magazines and anthologies, but I'll be self-pubbing the collection.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? That's a toughie. Some of the stories flowed and required very little effort. Usually those were the ones I'd had rattling around in my head long enough that they were ready to jump on the page. Others took longer. And more re-writes. I'm big on the rewrite.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? Wow. I guess some of King's collections, in the sense that there's such a variety of stories, not all are supernatural but they are all unsettling.

9. Who or What inspired you to write this book? The ideas usually come from random observations, but my husband and kids inspired me to pursue writing and putting this collection together.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? I'm fortunate that I have a great cover artist working on it and some good blurbs from authors I've respected for years. All will be revealed in time!

Famous Monsters Convention 2010

Posted by Marianne Halbert on July 10, 2010 at 2:01 PM Comments comments (0)

A huge part of why I write creepy stuff is not only thanks to scary stories I've read since I was little, but all the classic, fantastic horror films that hold a special place in my heart. The highlights of the Famous Monsters Convention for me were (1) meeting Judith O'Dea, aka "Barbara" in the 1968 classic, Night of the Living Dead. It's tradition for me to watch that movie every Halloween, and to meet her in person was a thrill. And she was just as sweet as could be!



And (2) meeting Billy Wirth and Brooke McCarter, aka "Dwayne and Paul" from The Lost Boys. I've seen that movie a gazillion times. Billy Wirth said he's producing movies and is possibly interested in using one of my short stories. He's got my card, so we'll see! Either way, I loved meeting 2 of my favorite vamps.


There were so many other actors there too, representing so many many many great films. It was inspiring. I think I'm going to write something scary now.....

Awesome Book Launch Party

Posted by Marianne Halbert on June 12, 2010 at 9:34 PM Comments comments (0)

Today was the Book Launch for Bedlam at the Brickyard. I've been to booksignings where the only person in the audience was the librarian who booked the authors. Today, we were at Barnes & Noble. The authors showed up at 11:00, to sign each other's copies. First, we had great author turnout. 13 out of 15, and one lives in California, one is recovering from a head-on collision after being struck by a vehicle involved in a high speed police pursuit. Keep reading after the photo of me carrying Sherita's books....



The first highlight of my day was when D.L. Hartmann asked who she should pay for her books, and as treasurer, I raised my hand. She looked at me, and with all sincerity, said, "You are SO pretty." Thank you Dee! That's the look I was going for! And cool, of course. Pretty is good, if you can pull off pretty AND cool, that's even better. (And then of course author Michael Dabney teased me that he wanted the autograph of the pretty girl. Yes, Michael, I signed your books too!)  Keep reading after the jump....

Our Sisters In Crime (SinC) President, Diana Catt was a great moderator, and our editor, Brenda Stewart, and Co-Editor, Wanda Willis, were charming and witty as usual. Keep reading after the jump...



We also had a great crowd. I loved seeing my mom and sister Susan in the audience, and later my friend Laura and her husband Pete. And a really nice surprise was seeing our old Mystery Company friend, Jim Huang. But it was weird and wonderful to have total strangers asking for my autograph today. Overall, I think I signed my name over 300 times. Incredible. The authors, Sisters and Mister Sisters in Crime, had each other, the audience, and the Barnes & Noble staff in stitches, (Yes Sherita and D.B., I'm talking to you!), the audience was enthusiastic and energetic. The Barnes & Noble staff were very friendly and gracious. (And the food was great. I should eat at B & N more often!)


As an author, writing the story is its own kind of rush. Sharing it with people who are actively seeking it is a thrill on a different level. After the signing, my husband and daughters took me out to dinner to celebrate, where we ate too many oysters Rockafeller and king crab legs, and as my daughter put it "We are stuffing ourselves, but doing it politely." Today was an awesome day. In spite of the thunderstorm raging outside my window, I know I'll sleep well tonight.



What I'm up to these days

Posted by Marianne Halbert on June 2, 2010 at 5:56 PM Comments comments (1)

OK. My website has been up for a couple weeks now. I've had almost a couple hundred visitors. Which is nice, but begs the question, why do I only have 10 members (and I'm one of them) and even fewer comments? Is it that people are more curious than interested? Are my friends shyer than I realized?


I have spent a lot of these past couple weeks on getting ready for the "Bedlam at the Brickyard" launch party (June 12, from 2-5, Carmel Barnes & Noble - See "Upcoming Events") Letting people know, creating my own labels to put on bookmarks that include my web address, helping the local SinC chapter order really really cool looking bookmarks.


I have also been flooded with ideas for some of Pill Hill Press' call for submissions. They definitely seem to be the biggest fish in the pond at the moment when it comes to print publication for speculative short stories. Which is my niche. I realize I'd open myself to a wider marker if I submitted to e-zines, but I can't hold an e-zine in my hand, or read it in bed, or line it up on my Dream Shelf. So, with only one exception (Thug Lit), I limit myself to print publication submissions, and I continue to lay awake at night while my characters tell me what they are going to do next, and write by day so they can get out of my head and make their way on to the page.


Today, I finished my first draft of a short story titled, "Upon Further Reflection". I wrote it for Pill Hill's clone anthology, and have high hopes that it will make it in (because it's a very cool story), but am letting my critique group take their red pens to it first, before I submit it. My husband, a major Sci-Fi buff, read it and had a couple helpful suggestions that will make their way in to the story too.


Now, I'll get back to my creepy story for the "Middle of Nowhere" submission. Just finished reading the first edition, and would love to be a part of the 2nd. Then I'll be finishing my necromancer story, and after that, I need to buckle down, send out a bunch of queries for my first novel, and get back to writing the second one.


I also made my own business cards for my website, and passed the first one out today when we ran into one of the girls' teachers today while signing them up for summer reading at the library. That felt good. Please hang out a moment longer, the blondie brownies are almost out of the oven. I'll be write with you...

Why I write

Posted by Marianne Halbert on May 14, 2010 at 7:59 PM Comments comments (4)

I've been an avid reader for as long as I can remember.


Favorite author: Stephen King. For too many reasons to list in my first blog.


Favorite book: Watership Down. Because it speaks to who we are as different societies, and who we are as individuals operating within those societies. And because I like bunnies. Developed an entire novel I'm going to write someday just so I could have the word "rabbit" in the title. But seriously, it's an amazing novel. I don't read many novels twice, but that one's worth it.


A few years ago, I read two books back to back. Covers looked good. Bookjackets sounded intriguing. But the reads were disappointing. The characters were 2 dimensional cardboard characters. I knew nothing more on the last page than I did the first page about their motivations, who they were, or why I should care about them. There were typos all over the place. The resolutions of the stories were predictable and disappointing. I started thinking, "he should have made that character the villain, and this could be why..." or "that little tidbit in chapter three could've made a great red herring, but it went nowhere." I realized if I was going to waste time plotting out someone else's novel, I might as well spend time plotting my own.


I wrote a draft of my first novel (called, "Hear No Evil". The tagline was "The voices in your head are real - and the government is listening".) In my mind, it was awesome. I'd never taken a writing class, or spoken to another author, or gone to a writer's conference. But I was pretty sure it was AWESOME.


I stopped by a little independent bookstore called "The Mystery Company". I told the owner I'd written a novel, and didn't know what to do next. He told me about a critique group. Authors who met every other week, read each other's work, and critiqued and shaped it. So I showed up with my manuscript, prepared to wow them.


Boy, did I have a lot to learn!


I learned that my plot was awesome, and have subsequently earned the nickname of "The Plot Queen" among my peers. But I also learned I knew nothing about point of view (and I make it a personal goal to never again see "POV" written in the margins of the pages I pass out at critique group). I also needed work on secondary characters, avoiding info dumps, how to sprinkle in backstory, where to begin the story and so much more. That fist manuscript is now sitting in a drawer. Someday, I just might dust it off, apply what I've learned since, and give it a second go 'round.


My group encouraged me to write short stories. It's a great way to exercise different aspects of talent, play with different genres and points of view, and it's a quick fix when you have an idea you just have to get down on paper. Plus, when that day comes that you query an agent to represent your novel manuscript, it looks a lot better to have publishing credits. I remember thinking, I'm not a short story writer. But then a funny thing happened.


I read a nine word joke sentence in the paper. And this entire story unfolded in my head. I took my laptop when we went on a long weekend to a state park. After an exhausting day hiking, my little ones fell asleep. A few feet away, I opened my laptop, and the story flew off my fingertips.


I was in the zone.


The rush of having a completed short story was so different than the labor of love that is the novel. I sent it off to a local publisher, and two days later I got the call. They loved it. I've been a HUGE fan of writing the short story ever since.


So why do I write? Because I've always thought I could. Just never took the time. I'd read those two lame novels. And then my aunt Carol came for a visit, and shared some stories she'd written. Hers were autobiographical, but really moving. I knew if or when I wrote, it would be fiction. But I thought if she takes the time to do it, there's no reason I shouldn't. So I did. I write striving to capture moments of greatness, and confident I can do better than much of the stuff on the shelves these days. I love quirky characters, suspense, and mystery. I like gray characters who even I can't decide if I should love or hate them. I worry still about some of my characters. I challenge myself to come up with fresh ideas and unpredictable plots. The readers deserve it.


I've had five short stories published. Three more accepted and will be out soon. A few more written that I need to shop around, and about a dozen in my head I need to write. I've written a new novel (young adult teen/dog adventure) that I feel I can get published if I take the time to start querying agents. But for now, I feel blessed to have the opportunity, the creativity, and the support of my family to write, write, and write on.


Whether you are reading my fiction, something you love, or just plotting out your own life story, just keep turning the page. You never know what wonders await you. So get ready to wake up and smell the creepy.