Author Stacey Longo Talks Writing and the Habits of a Writer

by Jason Harris

Author Stacey Longo spoke to an attentive audience at the Douglas Library in Hebron, CT on Wednesday night about being a successful writer. Longo knows what she is talking about since she has sold over 20 stories and has been in over a dozen anthologies. She also has published a children’s book, Pookie and the Lost and Found Friend, and a collection of 12 tales, Secret Things,which was released in October. Along with writing, she is also an editor with a number of successful edited books including Wicked Seasons: The Journal of New England Horror Writers, Volume II.2013-12-11 08.41.01

Before she began her horror writing career in 2010, she was selling articles to newspapers and magazine such as The Island Crier and The Works. She was also a humor columnist for the Block Island Times. She has also just been hired to review B horror movies for the Cinema Knife Fight website.

The habits of a successful writer include writing a lot, Longo said. A writer should be setting realistic deadlines and goals. If these deadlines and goals are not realistic, you will just be defeating yourself and setting yourself up to fail. Stephen King writes 10 pages a day. Ernest Hemingway wrote 500 words a day.

“Thomas Harris took 10 years to write the sequel to Silence of the Lambs. Robert James Waller wrote The Bridges of Madison County in 6 weeks. Both were NY Times bestsellers.”

One shouldn’t use Harris as an excuse not to write every day or at least a few days a week, she said.

Stacey Longo talking to a crowd interested in writing.

Stacey Longo talking to a crowd interested in writing.

A writer should even read more than they are writing. Reading is always good, but it should be well-written book,s not poorly-written books such as the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer, she said. There are two books every writer should read. They are The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White and On Writing by King. A writer needs to know the rules of writing before choosing to break those rules.

If you want to write, you should seek out workshops, conventions, and writers’ groups so as to meet other writers. Longo states that writing is a lonely profession and meeting fellow writers is always a good thing. Other writers can help you or you may be able help them with editing, a potential market, or even with a story problem. “The best way to learn about the craft of writing is to talk to others who have been successful at it.”

Longo met Ken Wood, publisher of Shock Totem, in 2009 at the Northeastern Writer’s Conference (NECON). In 2011, he asked her to write-up an anecdote she had told him about her father so it could be printed in the magazine’s holiday issue.

When it comes to editing, it’s very important to Longo. Everyone needs to learn the basics of sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, and verb tenses. If you can do these things in your story, you won’t do it in a query letter, which will lead to no agents or publishers reading your story. This is where your fellow writers or your writer’s group comes in handy. Let them read your first draft and listen to their suggestions. Your first draft isn’t going to be publishable.

“No book on the shelves today is still in the original draft form that the writer first wrote. Everything needs editing,” Longo said.2013-12-11 08.39.49

Another important fact for a writer to learn is the need to be prepared for rejection because the publishing world is all subjective, Longo said. One publisher may reject a story while the another one will accept it.

For more information about Stacey Longo, click here.

Interview with the ‘You Gonna Die, Fly’ Creators

By Jason Harris


You Gonna Die, Fly was released last month. It was my pleasure to talk to Elizabeth Massie and Barbara Spilman Lawson about their creation. Massie wrote the story while Barbara illustrated this cute book.

JH: When did you come up with the concept/idea of You Gonna Die, Fly? Did you two come up with it together? What inspired it?

Elizabeth: A couple years ago, while at NECON (a great July convention in Rhode Island), I bought a copy of It’s Okay to Be a Zombie by Nathaniel Lambert and Danny Evarts. It’s a total hoot, wild and over-the-top, and is marketed as an “unchildren’s book.” I started thinking about how much I get a kick out of books with bright, insane artwork, especially if they illustrate stories that are equally crude, fun, and crazy. I also was aware that summer of how many flies there seemed to be – buzzing around my car, some of the bushes in the yard, and banging into the windows and into me inside the house. I started jotting down ideas for a short tale featuring a fly and his life. Then I showed it to my sister Barb, whose cartoony artwork I adore. She agreed to create the illustrations. We pretty much forgot about it for almost two years, and then we talked it over again during one of our long road trips together (Barb is a professional storyteller, and I often travel with her to help out.)

Once Barb created the character of Fly, with his one little eye/one big eye and ball-shaped body, the rest flowed like fine wine. Or cheap wine. Or stinky swamp water. Okay, like something wet that pours.

Barbara: After Beth wrote the book, she asked me if I’d like to illustrate it. My art style is bold, colorful and cartoony, so a picture book was the perfect idea. And I loved the idea of a “NOT-for kids” picture book. I write and illustrate my own picture books (actually FOR kids – I was a Kindergarten teacher for over 20 years and a professional storyteller now) but I love the chance to illustrate for a different genre. (Is a totally tacky and rude not-for-kids picture book an actual genre? If not, it should be.)

JH: Was Fly going to be the main character all along or did it start out as something else?

Elizabeth: Fly was always going to be the main character. Flies in real life drive me crazy, all buzzy in my ears and hair and banging around and crawling on stuff, but I do have a bit of sympathy for them with their itty-bitty short lives and being flies and all. So I imagined what it might be like for a fly who wanted to search for the meaning of his life, even though he only had two weeks to make it happen.

JH: Barbara, is this the first book you have been the illustrator for? If not, what else have you illustrated?

Barbara: I wrote a children’s book with Beth (Jambo Watoto: Hello, Children, Creative Arts Press, 1998), which was illustrated by artist, Marsha Heatwole. It’s a beautiful art book for kids. But that’s not what you asked, is it? I am just finishing writing and illustrating my own picture book, How Many Words Does It Take To Write A Book? It will be available in September, but not published under the Fucked Up Folktales Publishing line. ‘Cause you know, since it actually is for kids. Thought that was good move. It will be published under Stories With A Twist Books publishing.

Elizabeth: Barb forgot to mention that she has also written and illustrated a number of entertaining picture books toward the Virginia Standards of Learning for public schools under her Fun Stuff Publications imprint. These books have been a hit with kids and lifesaver for teachers needing clear, fun, practical, and memorable materials to teach the standards.

JH: Elizabeth, you have worked with Cortney [Skinner] before? Why not on this book?

Elizabeth: Cortney has been hired to do the artwork and cover designs for a number of my novels and collections – such as the ones for Afraid, Sineater, The Fear Report, Sundown, Naked On the Edge, Homegrown –and he is incredibly talented! However, I’d wanted to collaborate with my sister Barb for a while, and You Gonna Die, Fly seemed like the perfect project. I knew her light-hearted and sometimes insane illustrative style and was sure she would push it over the edge where it belonged!

JH: How long did it take to write and illustrate You Gonna Die, Fly?

Elizabeth: It took me a little over a week, to write the story. Then I let it sit and went over it again for some tweaking. Then it sat and sat and then Barb got her hands on it.

Barbara: When I finally started working on the pictures (a couple of years after Beth first wrote the story), it took about six weeks to get everything finished and ready for printing. As I completed each picture, I sent it to Beth and she checked it out and gave some input. “I really like this one!” or “Well, that sucks the big one.” You know, helpful, constructive input.

JH: You just started Damn You, Demon. When do you think the public will be able to get their hands on it?

Elizabeth: Barb had drawn a round, red, ball-shaped demon picture for another project we have in the works and we realized that the style would be perfect for a second book in the Fucked Up Folktales line. We just came up with the idea a week or so ago, and we’re working on that as we speak. Or will get back to it after we speak here, in this interview. Anyway, I’m guessing it will be ready to order by early September.

Barbara: What she said.

JH: Is there a timetable for the publishing of your books?

Barbara: There is no set timetable for publishing, but hopefully we’ll get all our books published before we’re dead.

Elizabeth: I like selling things before I’m dead. And yes, we have ideas for books beyond Fly and Demon. Oh, we do indeed ….

JH: I loved the first one. It was informative and funny. I actually looked-up online to see if flies only lived two weeks. I didn’t want the story or Fly’s life to end. Did you do research for the book before writing or illustrating?

Barbara: I looked up pictures of flies to see what they are supposed to look like. Then I drew a ball with wings. I also gathered pictures of stinkbugs, ticks, bowl weevils, beetles and lightning bugs for reference (for the insect orgy page).

Elizabeth: Thanks, Jason! We didn’t want Fly’s life to end, either, but damn it, there ya go. As to flies’ lifespans, we checked to see how long they live. Some live just a couple weeks. Some live a month or a little more. Hey, we want our rude, crude, over-the-top, not-for-kids picture books to be based in facts!

JH: You named your publishing company, Fucked Up Folktales. How long did it take to come up with the name? Is there any significance to the name?

Elizabeth: It took about ten seconds to decide the name. I’d recently been hired to write retellings of folktales for a major educational publisher. I researched a lot of folktales and geez louise, a lot of them are messed up. In one country, about 80% of the folktales end with some dude getting his head cut off. Happy-happy folktales! So anyway, while Barb and I were driving into town for some errand or other (did I tell you we live next door to each other, out in the country, so we run errands together fairly often?) I was telling her about the crazy-ass stories. I blurted out, “Those are some fucked up folktales!” Barb got this look on her face and said, “That the name for our line of not-for-kids picture books! Perfect!” And, you see, since folktales are tales made up by and told by folks, and Barb and I like to think of ourselves as folks, we figure ours could be new folktales. Perhaps our little stories will live on into the future, told and retold, read and re-read, like those lovely ones where dudes get their heads cut off.

Barbara: Once we decided on the publishing company name, we got together with our web designer. She hesitated, angled her head a little and asked, “With that name, what if you get some people looking for porn?” And I asked, “Do they buy books?”

JH: How has the response been for the book?

Barbara: Fantastic! Here are excerpts from a few early reviews: “It’s freakin’ hilarious and adorable.” “I honestly thought it was one of the most clever and funniest things I’ve read in a long time!!!” “This book is the poop!” “I LOVE “You Gonna Die, Fly”!!!!! It’s dark and irreverent and … stinky. Perfect!”

JH: How would you describe it to people. A children’s book for adults?

Elizabeth: We purposely call it a “not-for-kids picture book.” We put the “not-for-kids” first for people who can only read and comprehend a few words at a time. Otherwise, they’ll be giving it away to babies to enjoy, and can you imagine the mayhem when babies start acting likes flies, cussing, smoking, drinking, emulating their favorite character? I shudder at the thought.

Barbara: We don’t want it mistaken in any way for a children’s book. We put a picture of Fly smoking a cigarette on the front cover, we described the book as the “Not-for-Kids” book on the back cover so we hope adults will take a little time to flip through it and see it is NOT a kid’s book. We hope it is very clear. We hope adults are that smart.

JH: Besides the website, are there any other places to purchase the book?

Elizabeth: At the moment, the only place to order them is either through our Fucked Up Folktales website, the You Gonna Die, Fly page ( or through the You Gonna Die, Fly Facebook page (instructions are on the page.) Eventually, we’ll look into putting it on Amazon. After we figure how to do that.

Barbara: Yep, we’re working on it ….

A Newbie Shares His Experiences of NECON 33

by Nicholas Conley


NEHW member Nicholas Conley holding his book, "The Cage Legacy."

NEHW member Nicholas Conley holding his book, “The Cage Legacy.” Photo by Jason Harris.

For writers, the process of actually writing a book is one of the most painfully brutal tasks imaginable.  It’s a meticulous, painstaking, heart-stopping (and often heartbreaking) procedure that truly changes a person.

See, once the plucky creative-minded person decides that he or she has aspirations to become (of all the things in the world) a writer … and once that foolish, foolish person decides to embark on the god-awful,  painful task of writing a book, well … that creative person quickly becomes wrapped up in his or her own world.  And inside that world, it often seems like the only thing you’re working toward is that last page, that final period.

Once you finish the book, you’ll be done, right?   The world will just end, won’t it?  Everything will be complete! Your life is finished!

No, not quite.

As it turns out, completing your book isn’t the end of the story.  No, not by a long shot.  Now that your work is out there – now that this collection of inner demons that you’ve been carrying around in your head is finally out in the world, and it’s available for people to read — now, it’s time to get YOURSELF out there.  It’s time to meet people, form new friendships and make new connections.  You’ve done the introverted part, and you did it well — but now, it’s time to gather up your extroverted energies and, uh … mingle.

But … mingling?  How are a bunch of socially awkward WRITERS suppose to MINGLE?

See, this is why going to fiction/horror/comic etc. conventions can be difficult, but it’s also why the good conventions are so much fun.  Conventions force all of us introverted writers, artists and other creative types to get to know each other and interact.  Above all else, these conventions force us to get out of our writing shells.


Photo by N. Conley.

This is also why NECON (short for the Northeastern Writers Conference) is by far the most entertaining, lively and just plain entertaining convention I’ve ever had the opportunity to attend. Yes, it certainly features a smorgasbord of genre authors, artists and publishers, as well as plenty of enthusiastic genre fiction fans. But what makes NECON unique is that, really, it’s a surprisingly small, personal con; within a few hours, it’s as if you’ve known everyone there for years.

At NECON, the walls are down. It’s a highly casual affair, wherein all the big names (for example: Jack Ketchum, F. Paul Wilson, Kealan Patrick Burke, Christopher Golden, Brian Keene, etc.), small names and middling names are all on equal ground, and everyone freely interacts with one another. Everybody shares beers, trades corny jokes and gets to discuss their passions. Throughout my NECON experience, if there was one thing I heard quoted over and over again, it was this:

“Necon isn’t just a con, it’s a family.”

Yes, that’s definitely the feeling that one gets from attending. It doesn’t feel like a conference at all. Really, it just feels like a family reunion – the good kind, the kind where everyone cheerfully pokes fun at each other and catches up on what they’ve been doing for the last year.


Photo by N. Conley.

For genre writers, the Northeastern Writers Conference in Rhode Island is something you hear a lot about, and always in highly enthusiastic tones. Put on every year by the Booth family, including founder Bob Booth (who is affectionately referred to as Papa Necon). Booth is a truly inspirational figure; currently battling lung cancer. Bob and his family’s perseverance is absolutely amazing to see.

NECON is the Booth family’s baby, and what a creation it is; most people I’ve spoken to refer to NECON as “the best con,” or “the only con I go to every year,” and now that I’ve attended, I can definitely understand why.

(Before we move on, allow me to insert an embarrassing side note and a tip: Yes, NECON is pronounced Knee-Con, not En-E-Con, Neck-on and definitely not Neeh-Cone. This seems obvious, but I’ll admit I actually made sure not to say Knee-Con out loud until I’d heard someone else say it first. Oh, the shame, the shame…)

Now, how did my weekend get started?

Okay, so I made the two-hour drive down from New Hampshire on Thursday afternoon. Immediately upon opening the doors, the welcoming nature of the whole event was made extraordinarily apparent. Once I got my badge, collected my bearings and started emptying all the empty candy/chips/highly-stereotypical-road-snack wrappers out of my bag, I was immediately greeted by Mark Angevine and artist Duncan Eagleson, both of whom did a terrific job at explaining everything, telling me the history of Camp Necon and showing me around. Seriously, I really can’t emphasize enough how great these guys were; I enjoyed many intriguing conversations with both of them throughout the weekend. From there, Mark offered me a cup of coffee – very, very strong coffee. I got the pleasure of enjoying a brief demonstration of his talented musical abilities, in particular his undeniable skill at playing the shakuhachi, an ancient Japanese end-blown flute.

From there, I met up with Scott Goudsward of the New England Horror Writers, a great guy who really does an admirable job at organizing all of these group events. There was a whole slew of NEHW members all over NECON, so all of us got to freely navigate throughout the convention. Sometimes at the table, sometimes at the panels or sometimes just walking around, you could always spot an NEHW member somewhere. Among those in attendance were Charles Day (The Legend of the Pumpkin Thief), Bracken McLeod (Mountain Home), Tracy L. Carbone (Restitution), David Price (Dead in the USA), Kristi Petersen Schoonover (Bad Apple), Michael Arruda (In the Spooklight), Eric Dimbleby (The Klinik) and Scott and Trisha Wooldrige (UnCONventional), as well as Jason Harris and Stacey Longo Harris, owners of the horror-themed Connecticut bookstore Books and Boos, which I’ll be doing a reading at on August 24.

Now, NECON is a four-day event , so naturally, there’s an enormous amount of great moments to talk about. However, since I’m far too aware of my own tendency to turn every article into a novel-length work (yes, I’m one of those guys, ugh), I’m going to force myself to whittle this down into a neat, tidy, manageable length. To accomplish this daunting task, I’m going to write out a concise list of highlights:

Rick Hautala

Rick Hautala

1. The Rick Hautala memorial.  Rick, who was famously known as “Maine’s other horror writer,”  was the author of over 30 novels and short stories; his recent death this past March was an enormous shock to many in the literary community. As a regular attendee of NECON – an event that was, according to his close friends, “Rick’s Christmas,” – most of the first night of NECON 33 was devoted to a moving tribute of the man and his work. Touching speeches were given by many of Rick’s friends and loved ones, including Christopher Golden and Rick’s wife, Holly Newstein Hautala. I’m sorry to say that I only had the opportunity to meet Rick once, back at Anthocon 2012. However, even in my limited interactions with him, Rick’s kindness and generosity were truly remarkable, especially for someone who so many young horror writers (myself included!) have looked up to for so many years; he was truly one of a kind. Rest in peace, Rick.

2. For the next highlight, going back to speeches; I can’t go without mentioning that every speech given by Mike Myers and Rio Youers was absolutely gut-bustingly hilarious. Great job, guys.

3. The Hawaiian shirt contest! Ridiculous as it might sound, this was totally one of my most anticipated events of the weekend. Since I consider myself to be something of a Hawaiian shirt connoisseur (and with that, the crowd groans), I was excited to give this a whirl. As it was, my shirt – a white and red number – placed in third, winning me a set of googly eyes. I was happy with third place, since my fellow top fivers (including the winner, Barry Dejasu) had some really terrific shirts. My personal favorite was probably Errick Nunnally’s Spider-Man number, which displayed almost all of the major Amazing Spider-Man issues of the last fifty years.

4. “That Damn Game Show,” hosted by Craig Shaw Gardner and Doug Winter. This is the sort of event that could only happen at NECON; a relentlessly silly “game show” with a head-smacking number of “simple rules.” Truly, an enormous amount of fun.

5. The artists’ reception – complete with coffee! – where everyone got to chance to spend some time exploring all of the amazing art pieces at the show, and discussing them with the artists themselves. Artists in attendance included Jill Bauman, Caniglia, Stephen Gervais and the aforementioned Duncan Eagleson. Overall, I probably spent the most time speaking with him. Duncan is an exceptionally interesting guy with a lot of great insights, as well as being a truly remarkable artistic talent; his Lovecraftian “Homo Avis” piece was absolutely fascinating.

6. …and finally, the courtyard! Why the courtyard? Because when it comes down to it, those nights in the courtyard – the long, late nights spent drinking an ocean of alcoholic beverages, chatting with friends and eating saugies – are truly where the warm, beating heart of NECON becomes most alive. The friendly, even affectionate atmosphere of the whole event is truly something special.

Photo by N. Conley.

Photo by N. Conley.

Special. That’s what NECON is, really — special.

And this, right here – right when I’m beginning to really, really enjoy reminiscing about what an amazing time NECON 33 was – is where I’m going to cut myself off, before I go into the aforementioned novel length territory. I’m already sailing ahead at almost 2,000 words, so I’d say it’s time to call it a night.

But in all seriousness, I just want to thank everyone who organized, contributed and attended NECON this year for creating an absolutely extraordinary event, one which even a “NECON newbie” like myself will never forget. Necon doesn’t just live up the hype, it surpasses it. There’s no other con like it, and I guarantee that I’m going to make a point to come back.

Pictures from Necon 33

by Jason Harris

The 33rd Northeastern Writers’ Conference (Necon) has wrapped up another fun filled year. It was great seeing old friends and making new ones, talking about writing and marketing and just having a good time.

Throughout the four-day convention, there were panels including That Line We Crossed: How Explicit is Too Explicit and We’ve Got You Covered: How Print Cover Art Happens. There were also the Necon Olympics: bowling, darts, foosball, and hi-lo-jack.

There was an Meet the Author party on Friday night and an Artist reception on Saturday. A Hawaiian shirt competition, Necon Update, That Damn Game Show and the Infamous Necon Roast also took place during this fun weekend.

Necon campers remembered Rick Hautala, who passed away in March, on Thursday night during his memorial tribute, which was introduced by Christopher Golden.

2013-07-20 03.13.00

Christopher Golden on the panel, “I’ll Buy That for a Dollar: Resurrecting Your Backlist & Marketing the Hell Out of Your Writing (a.k.a. The Business Panel)”

Author Jeff Strand during the Necon Roast.

Author Jeff Strand during the Necon Roast.

Author Heather Graham

Author Heather Graham on the panel, “I’ll Buy That for a Dollar: Resurrecting Your Backlist & Marketing the Hell Out of Your Writing (a.k.a. The Business Panel)”

From left to right: Craig Shaw Gardner, Christopher Golden, Elizabeth Massie, Nicholas Kaufman, and F. Paul Wilson participating in That Damn Game Show.

From left to right: Craig Shaw Gardner, Christopher Golden, Elizabeth Massie, Nicholas Kaufman, and F. Paul Wilson participating in That Damn Game Show.

Author and NEHW member Nicholas Conley holding his book, "The Cage Legacy."

Author and NEHW member Nicholas Conley holding his book, The Cage Legacy.

Craig Shaw Garner about to talk about the prizes for winning That Damn Game Show.

Craig Shaw Garner about to talk about the prizes for winning That Damn Game Show.

Authors Trisha Wooldridge and David Price at the NEHW table.

Authors Trisha Wooldridge and David Price at the NEHW table.

Jeannine Calia finishing shaving author Rio Youers who shaved his head for charity, The Jimmy Fund.

Jeannine Calia fixing the shaving job author Rio Youers had done for charity, The Jimmy Fund.

Author P. Gardner Goldsmith having some fun as he shaves some of Rio Youers' head as Author James Moore films it.

Author P. Gardner Goldsmith having some fun as he shaves some of Rio Youers’ head as author James Moore films it and the blurry Christopher Golden watches.

John M. McIlveen's dealer table.

John M. McIlveen’s dealer table.

The Dealer and Art room at Necon.

The Dealer and Art room at Necon.

Bram Stoker winning poet Linda Addison being roasted.

Bram Stoker winning poet Linda Addison being roasted.

Artist Courtney Skinner during the Necon Roast.

Artist Courtney Skinner during the Necon Roast.

Author Brian Keene during the Necon Roast.

Author Brian Keene during the Necon Roast.

From left to right: writers Catherine Grant, Stacey Longo, and Tracy Carbone.

From left to right: writers Catherine Grant, Stacey Longo, and Tracy Carbone.

Pictures from the First Day of Necon 32

Pictures from the First Day of Necon 32

by Jason Harris

Friendly Neighborhood Comics

Friendly Neighborhood Comics in Bellingham, MA.

The trip to the Northeastern Writers’ Conference (Necon) took a stop in Bellingham, MA. at the Friendly Neighborhood Comics. It wasn’t a stop for comic books, but a few collections of Batman comics were bought. The stop was made to meet the store’s owner, Ernie Pelletier, Jr. and to look over the store since there will be an Epitaphs signing on Saturday, Oct. 6.

A group of Necon campers waiting for a table at Scampi's.

A group of Necon campers waiting for a table at Scampi’s.

From left to right: NEHW members L.L. Soares, Peter Dudar, Christopher Irvin, and Steve Dorato. Necon camper Mark Angevine is behind Soares’ right shoulder and author Laura Clooney can almost be seen behind Dorato.

Happily fed campers.

Campers hanging out in front of Rhode Island University’s Conference Center and Hotel in Bristol, Rhode Island.

A portrait of the late Les Daniels, who died last November, done by Artist Cortney Skinner.

Part of the NEHW tables at Necon.

Another part of the NEHW table.

A group of NEHW members’ books.